Title: Case 39
Directed by: Christian Alvart
Starring: Renee Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland (The Cabin in the Woods, Eclipse) and Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, DeadWood)
The Halloween season always draws out the craziness in people’s personalities. This is certainly the case in several aspects relating to the new horror movie ‘Case 39,’ the newest film trying to capitalize on the genre of demons possessing young girls. Starring Renee Zellweger, Bradley Cooper and featuring up-and-coming horror actress Jodelle Ferland, ‘Case 39′ not only relays the craziness of several of the main characters, but also the Academy Award-winning actress’ decision to star in the film.
Paramount Vantage, the studio behind ‘Case 39,’ even seemed to lack faith in the suspense thriller before its release. Shot in fall 2006, the movie was originally scheduled for release in winter 2008, and was then pushed back to that summer. Its release was delayed again to spring 2009, and it finally made it into theaters in the U.S. on October 1, 2010. Opening on this day makes ‘Case 39’s failure almost a certainty, as it debuted against the highly-anticipated ‘Let Me In,’ the remake of the Swedish vampire horror movie ‘Let The Right Ones In.’ ‘Case 39’ also opened against the highly-acclaimed and early Oscar contender ‘The Social Network,’ which details the rise of social networking empire Facebook.
Considering vampires and Facebook are all the rage in today’s society, ‘Case 39,’ seems to parallel the evil daughter theme seen in last year’s semi-successful drama ‘Orphan,’ which opened to mixed reviews. While fans may not currently want to embrace another evil child movie just yet, Ferland deserves credit for her portrayal of Lillith Sullivan in ‘Case 39,’ much like Isabelle Fuhrman did for her role as Esther in ‘Orphan.’
While Zellweger is credited as the main actress in ‘Case 39’ for her role of Emily Jenkins, the movie relies heavily on Ferland’s performance. The film follows Lillith after her parents are institutionalized for trying to kill her. Emily, a social worker, wants to protect Lillith and agrees to take her in until a permanent foster family is found. While the arrangement works at first, Emily grows suspicious of who, or what, Lillith really is after strange, unexplained things start happening to her friends, her co-workers, the families whose cases she’s working on and herself.
‘Case 39’ did have a promising start, as it made viewers question whether or not Lillith’s parents were, in fact, crazy, or if she was doing something to them that created the need for them to defend themselves. Director Christian Alvart made the right decision to focus on the strained relationship between Lillith and her parents in the beginning, and the reawakened hope for her future when Emily took her in. But as the story continued, Alvart took too long to introduce the possibility that Lillith was possessed, leaving the audiences to question if Emily was also going crazy while around the young girl. Isolated from her friends, co-workers and family, it seemed as though Emily was just suffering from the stress of caring for a ten-year-old girl.
Zellweger was also miscast as Emily, as she didn’t seem to be emotionally connected to her. The only other notable horror movie she has appeared in was 1994’s ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation,’ the third sequel to the hit 1974 original. After a delayed release, Zellweger even tried to stop that movie being shown to the public, as she was rising to fame in the hit Academy Award-winning movie ‘Jerry Maguire.’ She later garnered notoriety appearing in both comedies and dramas, and her performance in ‘Case 39’ proves why she should stir clear of horror movies in the future.
Contrastingly, Ferland, who was 12-year-old when the movie was filmed, has since risen to fame in the horror genre, having appeared in the 2006 adaptation of the video game ‘Silent Hill’ and this summer’s ‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’ as Bree Tanner. She stole the spotlight from Zellweger in ‘Case 39,’ showing that girls really do want love and attention from their parents and loved ones, one of the themes of the movie, and will do anything to get it. Her role as Lillith proves that she’s perfected the art of appearing as an innocent protagonist, while all the while really being a sinister antagonist.
While rated R for violence and terror including disturbing images, the only disturbing thing about ‘Case 39’ was how well Ferland portrayed Lillith. While this movie will solidify Ferland’s presence in the horror genre, it will also reiterate Zellweger’s status as a comedic and dramatic actress, and the fact that she should quickly move onto her next case.
Written by: Karen Benardello