Christian Alvart follows up his 2009 sci-fi horror Pandorum with 2010 earthbound horror Case 39. The film follows around social worker Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger) as she looks into case number 39 (hence the title). The case in question is the suspected abuse of Lillith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland). Emily pays the family a visit and finds out that Lillith’s parents are a couple of weirdos, but as her boss Wayne (Adrian Lester) points out there is no law against that. As it turns out Emily is trapped in the plot of last year’s Orphan.
It is quite hard for me to describe the story without giving away any plot twists seen as most of them occur pretty early on. But I think seen as this plays like a rip-off of Orphan you can probably figure out where it is heading. The Sullivan’s are out of the way and Emily finds out that little Lillith isn’t quite what she seems and begins to regret the decision to take her into her care. The terror that follows Lillith also surrounds Emily once the two characters are under the same roof, and bad things start happening to most of the other characters in the film leaving a showdown between Emily and the forces of evil inevitable.
The picture is a typical paedophobic tale. Children are to be avoided like the plague and having one will ruin your life. It should fit in well with the British culture of fearing the young. Bring back the birch! Zellweger’s agent clearly didn’t want her to become typecast and so this film is something of a success from their viewpoint as she handles the role of damsel in distress competently. Though how different that is from walking around being seduced by Hugh Grant and Colin Firth is up for debate. Little Jodelle Ferland deserves credit for acting her part brilliantly and can’t be held responsible for any of the film’s flaws, as no child ever can be.
As a horror film the picture soars or sinks based solely on how wet the audience’s collective panties are by the end credits. It has the required number of cheap ‘boo’ scares; the unhappy events that occur to the characters are not overly terrifying – though if they happened in real life you could be forgiven for literally dying of fright. There is nothing in the way of originality at any point during the movie, though it will be less frustratingly clichéd than Nightmare on Elm Street 39. It has all been seen before a thousand times and the same stuff will be churned out another thousand times, barring an apocalyptic nuclear disaster.
I didn’t go into this film expecting to review it, so perhaps I took a slightly different angle on it than most other critics (who absolutely slated it). The picture just about fails to earn itself three stars. It was probably helped by the fact that the story connected with me on a uniquely personal level, not that I am scared of children. I just… don’t want to talk about it anymore. This is a highly forgettable film, it bombed out of sight almost immediately after its release, but you could do worse than seeing it. It could and probably should have been a straight-to-DVD release. Coming to bargain bins near you soon!