DVD: Case 39

Photo: amazon.ca

Starring Renée Zellweger, Ian McShane, Jodelle Ferland and Bradley Cooper. Directed by Christian Alvart. 109 minutes. 14A

Demon children are too cliché in recent years. Really, it's just a bit too much after The Omen, The Unborn, The Orphan... They're all sickly-pale with dorky haircuts and wear only black. But at least this film isn't called The Case.

Case 39 is about, well, Case 39, which social worker Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger) receives. It's a young girl, Lillith (Jodelle Ferland), who's having trouble with her parents and her school grades are plummeting from As steeply downward. When Emily visits Lillith's family, she begins to suspect abuse is happening in the house and one night, when Lillith calls Emily's house at night scared and asking for help, Emily assumes the worst. Bringing along her detective friend and colleague Mike Barron (Ian McShane), they find that Emily's suspicions are true in as awful a way as possible. Lillith is taken to a foster home but has taken an liking to Emily. Emily decides to temporarily play mommy and take Lillith home with her. But when things start to turn ghastly and gory around Emily she begins to wonder if Lillith has anything to do with it.

It's a very quick-paced film and 109 minutes seem to breeze by. It's exactly the pace you need for a film like this, with a bit of a mystery behind it that the lead character begins to unravel. There's no time wasted on irrelevant back story and plenty of unexpected turns leading to you to constantly doubt what you think you know.

However, Zellweger doesn't make a very convincing social worker. Her character too quickly turns on her make-believe daughter as if the sympathy she originally portrayed in the first half of the film was entirely a facade, which it wasn't meant to be. On the other hand, although Bradley Cooper as Emily's psychiatrist best friend seems to be a little timid, it's refreshing to see him in such a serious role and aside from slightly seeming hesitant to fully commit to the role, he's actually really interesting to watch and shows his ability to switch back and forth from comedy. My suggestion: go for the gripping romantic drama next, Cooper.

Next to other recent films in the Satan-child genre, Case 39 doesn't fare too poorly. Actually, you might even jump in your seat a few times or shield your eyes. But half an hour later, you'll forget the jitters and sleep soundly, which is not how horror flicks should leave you. B

EXTRAS: Behind-the-scenes featurettes and deleted scenes.

*Review originally published October 10, 2010.

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