October 7, 2010

Case 39 (2009)

"A social worker fights to save a girl from her abusive parents, only to discover that the situation is more dangerous than she ever expected."

I don't know why it took until October 1st, 2010 for "Case 39" to be released in America as it was made in 2006. The UK had it theatrically and on DVD back in 2008. I remember the same thing happened with "The Descent" from 2005 as well. I suppose it makes a change for Britain to get to see films before America but I'm not going to dwell on it. I really don't care that much about release dates or corporate decisions and I'm pretty fed up with reading other reviewers that have spent half their time working out of the intricate details of how "Case 39" was shelved for so long when it clearly wasn't.

The most important thing that you need to know about "Case 39" is that it's nothing more than a polished turd. It's not unwatchable by any stretch of the imagination unless, like me, you find Renée Zellweger quite horrific to look at but it isn't a very good film at all. Some people have compared it to last year's "Orphan" and I can see where they are coming from. Jodelle Ferland (who plays Lillith) is good but she's no Isabelle Fuhrman.

The best comparison you can make is to the "Twilight Zone" episode called "It's a Good Life" (which was also redone to some extent in "Twilight Zone: The Movie") and I'm surprised that nobody has picked up on it rather than going down the "it's just another evil kid movie" route. I actually read the short story of "It's a Good Life" back when books still held any interest for me and it was far more chilling than the TV episode. For those of you who don't know, the story was about a little boy who controlled a whole town because they were scared of what he could do with his telekinetic powers. "Case 39" just swaps the gender of the "bad kid" and turns her into a demon for some inexplicable reason. It's not original and it's quite disappointing to have a non-twist like that.

Anyway, not only was Renée Zellweger horrible to look at in "Case 39" but I hated her performance in it almost as much as I've hated her in everything else she's ever done including "The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Yes, she's no stranger to the horror genre but nor are any of the other big players in this film. Ian "Lovejoy" McShane, who plays some kind of cop in "Case 39", has been in quite a few weird things including episodes of the "Twilight Zone" and "Chiller". Bradley Cooper, who doesn't get nearly long enough on screen and dies by CGI bees, was in "The Midnight Meat Train" (2008) of course, and even Callum Keith Rennie and Kerry O'Malley who play Lillith's parents have been around the horror TV genre for a while too. It therefore comes as no surprise that they all know what they are doing as actors and do the best they can even if every single one of them apart from Bradley Cooper was horribly miscast. Honestly, who in their right mind would try to pass off Renée Zellweger with her little girly voice and great big face as a social worker? I didn't buy into it at all. All I could think of was those horrible "Bridget Jones" films and how she's managed to slim down everything but her enormous head since. I'm sure she's a lovely person in real life but, as an actress, she just doesn't do anything for me. It troubles me greatly that I can't ever work out if she's supposed to be pretty or not and the amount of extreme close-ups of her fizzog didn't help.

I wish I had something more profound to say about "Case 39" rather than some superficial ramblings but it was a very superficial film and doesn't really deserve it. I suppose I should congratulate whoever wrote the script for a good first half and an atrocious second. Once Bradley Cooper's character dies, everything goes downhill. It's not like I have a man-crush on the guy or anything but that's just the point where you can feel the film change for the worse. Even Kerry O'Malley, who is actually very pretty without the haggard looking make-up, can't save the story with her pathos inducing performance. I think hers was the only character I even cared about in the whole thing.

"Case 39" could have been a really scary tale of the supernatural but it wasn't. If you really have to watch a humans versus a demon film then "Fallen" (1998) should still be your first choice. Perhaps if "Case 39" had gone for a similar downbeat ending rather than the one it has then it would have worked better but then I would have sat here moaning about that too.

I'm not even going to mention the gore since it was so sparse that if you blink you'll miss it. Horror doesn't need to be all about the gore anyway but it certainly does need to have a good story. Just throwing the occasional grisly moment in is just lazy and, unfortunately, getting too predictable. All "Case 39" needed was a cat jumping out of a closet and a lot more loud noises and I could have written it off yet another complete piece of formulaic crap. Actually, even without those elements, it still is.

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