Sunday, October 17, 2010

CASE 39 (2010)



Fancy-nancy former mainstream success Renée Zellweger comes crawling back to horror in this, her first genre outing since the just smashing RETURN OF THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE! This is one of those killer-kid movies that appeared to be all the rage two or so years ago, so it's a bit late to glom onto the trend, but perhaps killer-kid nostalgia will flare up anytime soon and CASE 39 can catch that bus to stardom.

Renée Zellweger, her icky dismissal of horrordom notwithstanding, is really not a great actress. Here, she sort of plays a social worker who becomes attached to a presumably-abused little girl named LILITH (sorry, we used up all the subtlety in cases 1-38). The first half of this film is excruciatingly unenjoyable, thanks mostly to Zellweger's attempts to will some sort of human emotion across her rictused face. The role of the social worker could have been played by a robot or the same little girl who plays the little girl in a dual role and I would have been more satisfied.

Which brings up another issue with this movie—the pacing. The whole boring first half of the film is devoted to the "happy family" scenes that will set up the eventual brimstone turn, but they go on FOREVER. Then, when Lilith starts to demonstrate malevolent leanings, the turn comes out of NOWHERE! Some portion of this movie might have been excised, but it sure feels like the makers suddenly remembered, "Oh, shit! Lilith is supposed to be evil!" And it doesn't take any time at all for some of the major characters to go from "aww, cute" to "DEMON! BURN IT!" I've always thought it would be funny to put some child-hater into one of these films who IMMEDIATELY accepts that the kid is evil and must be destroyed. "Demon, you say? Sounds great! You hold her down, I'll get the axe!" But I really don't think that was the intention with CASE 39.

I am leveling lots of critiques at this thing, but there are upsides. It's shot well and has some really fab, trippy scenes once hell breaks loose. Little girl Jodelle Ferland exudes some menace as Lilith and her seedy, crackers mom and dad (Callum Keith Rennie and Kerry O'Malley) really excel in meaty roles. But, given the similar competition (ORPHAN, THE CHILDREN, and HOME MOVIE all squash this handily), CASE 39 comes off as a little unnecessary.

#17 of 31.

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