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'What are you doing, you silly pumpkin head?'
Case 39 (DVD)
Member Name: MattyTM
Case 39 (DVD)
Advantages: An enjoyable watch all be it a little unbelievable
Disadvantages: Zelwegger nearlly let's the side down
'What are you doing, you silly pumpkin head?'
The line that on the outset isn't all that special, but when you hear those words uttered on your television set as you watch Case 39 you will feel an almost other worldly shiver crawl down your spine. Case 39 is directed by Christian Alvart who most recently helped create the world of Pandorum. Now comes a film about a young child traversing the line between good and evil and the results are a little surprising.
The film features the much loved Renee Zellweger who everyone remembers from Bridget Jones, sadly this film plays her as the damsel in distress and the results aren't that great. Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) is an overworked, under paid social worker with 38 open cases and as the film begins her boss Wayne kindly throws her Case number 39. Case 39 is a little girl called Lillith Sullivan, from the outset things don't look good for the young girl, she seems neglected, not cared for and as she is brought in Emily realises that there is much more than meets the eye with Lillith.
Emily takes a trip to Mr and Mrs Sullivan's house and finds herself shocked by little Lilith's parents who seem to have little time and little care for the young girl. Her fears are realised as she receives a phone call from Lillith in the middle of the night and as she bursts through the parents front door, is left aghast as she see's Mr and Mrs Sullivan locking their little girl in their oven. After a brief, all be it violent outburst from her best friend John, the parents are sub-dued and the child is set free.
Sadly for Emily things have only just begun for her and as the movie progresses she realises that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea burning, this supposedly 'cute' child, alive.
The whole atmosphere of the film is pretty chilling, from the get go you feel that something is wrong and as the story progresses the general atmosphere becomes darker. It never gets far enough to make you jump through your skin or leap for the nearest pillow to cover your face, but it still leaves you wondering what's going to happen next. Alvart does a pretty good job of making the film look dank, dark and spine chilling with little help from special effects or even the soundtrack.
The film itself does move along quite nicely, not slow enough to bore you and not quick enough to confuse you and leave you lost. Starting out with the visit to the Parents house and the weirdness ensues you'll find that before too long the child is happily hugging Emily and then just as you start to think how 'cute' a family they are you find yourself wishing for the same outcome to the film as Emily.
The films biggest downfall is Renee who is completely out of her depth in Case 39. She can play a role in a Rom-Com to perfection, but her attempts of being angry beyond belief or scared are quite frankly dire. Her part is unbelievable and although she does just about enough to make you connect with her character and root for her when the shit hits the proverbial fan, your still left thinking that if she does end up the victim then it's no real loss to the movie. She tries to be a caring mother to the young child, yet in the scenes when she is all happy in a family environment she conveys no loving emotion and it makes a lot of the film almost feel awkward.
Bradley Cooper seems to serve little more purpose than being the eye candy in the movie who like so many others is slain before their character has a chance to develop. Granted he does a sterling job when he does show up on screen, especially as he is interviewed by Lillith, even the audience will feel a little uneasy as the two of them finish with poor Doug looking like he's just seen the Devil incarnate. Emily's best friend John, played by Ian McShane, is a nice breath of fresh air in the movie, acting as the cop who'll happily bend the rules for a friend. Instantly upon meeting John you will have a nice little bond with him as let's face it, most every cop will happily bend a few rules for a friend. Ultimately as you watch John you soon realise he, like Doug, is nothing more than a dead body who's only being kept alive to keep the audience interested and have someone that they connect with up on screen.
Now for the true gem in Case 39, Lillith Sullivan, played by the unbelievably talented Jodelle Ferland. Case 39 is by no means a special film, and far from perfect, needless to say despite that it still is a must buy just to witness this young girl playing one of the most chilling child roles seen since The Omen. Jodelle does an amazing job of flicking between her innocent and evil personas and acts both roles out with absolute perfection. When she's innocent you will feel for her, her past and what her parents have 'done' to her, but as quick as you feel for her she forces you to despise her. When the plot evolves and you figure out what Lillith truly is you start to realise just how good Jodelle is. Every smirk has a lashing of distinct horror, her eyes pierce through your skull every time you happen to glance upon her and even the way she walks and goes about her day to day rituals reeks of pure evil and it is amazing for such a hard gift to be pulled of by someone so young. Her entire part is summed up when she almost hisses the line 'What are you doing, you silly pumpkin head?' to her adopted mother under a bed, the sinister smile she has painted on her face is by far the most memorable moment of Case 39 and shows just how much talent young Jodelle has.
End Credits The plot itself is nothing special and it doesn't exactly stand out from the very cramped horror crowd. Saying that it is becoming increasingly harder to create a truly original horror film in the modern world of special effects and green screens. Alvart takes a mighty fine whack at Case 39, a film which both raises the hairs on the back of your neck and has you clawing for your favourite teddy. It is riddled with horror clichés, screaming women, evil little girls and family members who appear evil, but actually on closer look aren't. Despite all this it is still a very good film. Jodelle carries the rest of the cast and despite some nice performances from both Bradley Cooper and Ian McShane, Jodelle is the shining light who's presence on screen is unmatched by any child in a very long time. Renee was a let down, but again her flaws are wiped away as soon as Lillith enters a room.
Case 39 is going to win no Oscars, but that's not to say it's a film that should be simply neglected and left in the Blockbuster bargain bin. It will have you thinking about where the line between wrong and right is, you'll be talking about what 'you would do' for hours after and you get to see one of the best performances by a youngster this decade let alone this year. Despite being a standard run of the mill good and evil child movie, it still flows well enough to keep the audience interested from start to finish. If you haven't watched this yet get yourself on Play and lookout for this diamond in the rough. If you liked this why not try: 'The Omen' or 'The Orphan'.
Summary: Lillith Sullivan MAKES Case 39