Directed by: Christian Alvart
Premise: A social worker (Renee Zellweger) becomes a foster parent to an abused girl (Jodelle Ferland). As suspicious incidents begin to occur, it becomes clear that there is something strange about the child.
What Works: Case 39 features a very creepy performance by Jodelle Ferland as the mysterious little girl. She has a command of the scenes she is in and exudes a wide variety of emotions, making character very convincing and manipulative.
What Doesn’t: Case 39 is a variation on the evil child storyline seen in films like The Ring, The Bad Seed, and The Omen but it doesn’t do that storyline nearly as well as any of those films. The story of Case 39 is in trouble from its premise. Having a social worker who, the film tells us, has no social life because she is so busy with work take on the responsibilities of parenting strains the film’s credulity. That’s to say nothing of the fact that the child is one of the social worker’s cases, which seems like a significant professional conflict of interest. As a thriller, Case 39 suffers from poor pacing. The film lets the audience in on the truth of the mystery too soon and does not adequately build up to that revelation. A lot of the set pieces that are supposed to be scary are often silly, such as the bathroom wasp attack, and Case 39 does not make much sense. The film is full of inconsistencies as the story plays fast and loose with its own logic and the characters make stupid decisions. Renee Zellwegger is miscast as the struggling social worker and she is unable to convey the terror nor even entertain notions of doubt or internal conflict that ought to complicate her character’s challenge.
Bottom Line: Case 39 is not a good film and viewers are better off revisiting any of the superior versions of the evil child genre than wasting their time on this film.
Episode: N/A (October 10, 2010)