Renée Zellweger is a fantastic actress who is completely wasted in a film that should have never seen the light of day. Case 39 is your run-of-the-mill horror movie, that you have to believe is aimed at teenagers, yet the subject matter is nothing of the sort. The reason you have to believe this is because the movie is just so dull and, well, anything but scary, that if it was meant for anyone but those seeing one of their first scary movies it makes it even more insulting.
The film is a PG-13 type scary movie that hits all the marks that a paint-by-numbers horror film aims to hit, though none of those turn into anything remotely scary, which kind of defeats the purpose of the film in the first place. One of the major problems right from the start is the pacing, as things seem to drag on forever before the story even begins. Setting the mood, and developing characters is completely understandable, unfortunately, it’s done so poorly in Case 39 that the first half an hour may be hard for people to get through, and if they do, the remaining hour and change doesn’t really get any better.
There are very few moments when one may be able to see on some small scale where a story may have once been noticed, and seemed somewhat interesting; however, it’s completely lost in the cliché ridden, borefest that ended up being made.
The story follows social worker Emily Jenkins (Zellweger), who loves what she does, but finds herself overworked and always on the job, leaving all other aspects of life on the back burner. When her boss gives her another case, Emily tries to refuse, but eventually caves and takes the file, which happens to be the biggest mistake of her life (and ours if you’re still watching.) The case involves a young girl, Lilith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland), who peaks Emily’s interest, and upon further investigation, is thought to be in danger if she stays with her parents. This proves to be true, as Emily and her heroic police officer friend, Det. Mike Barron (Ian McShane), receive a call in the middle of the night, and arrive just in time to rescue Lilith from her deranged parents who are arrested on the spot.
Not wanting Lilith to go through any more trauma, and feeling a connection to the girl, Emily petitions to take on custody until the state is able to find a suitable home for her. Once custody is granted, things begin to take a turn for the worse for Emily and all those she holds dear, as whatever haunted Lilith in the past seems to have found a new home, and it’s playing for keeps.
Intrigued? Well then you haven’t seen enough scary movies. The idea for the film is so poorly delivered, that it seems like the studio figured it could capitalize on a relatively small budget, and make some easy profits on the younger crowds looking to be scared. The problem with that logic is that the horror gravy train that peaked with films like The Ring, and The Grudge has left the station, and it did so long ago. The market was oversaturated for a long time, and even younger audiences began to shy away from seeing anything that offered a body count, especially when the source material was of no interest to them.
As stated above, Zellweger is wasted here, as she has so much more talent than this, yet just doesn’t pull in the opening weekend numbers that will allow her the roles that people like Sandra Bullock pick up. It’s unfortunate that it’s always such a numbers game with Hollywood, but that’s the case, and because of that, this film got a far worthier actress attached to it than it deserved.
Zellweger isn’t the only one wasted here, as Bradley Cooper plays her psychiatrist pal Doug, who is there not only as fodder, but also as the hinted at love interest that would be if only Emily wasn’t such a work-a-holic. As Cooper begins to peak as an actor now, just hitting his stride, and grabbing leading roles, this is definitely a part I’m sure he wishes never saw the light of day, as it was filmed back when he still wasn’t recognizable, and long before The Hangover was on the radar. Also completely wasted was Ian McShane, who deserves to catch a break, as this guy is someone that any show or film would be lucky to have. McShane is one of the few bright spots of the movie, and his character was one I wanted to see more of. Here’s hoping someone grabs him down the line for a role that gets him the recognition he deserves (and should have had after his brilliant run on the short-lived and insolently ended Deadwood.)
Case 39 is the type of film that all involved with it would likely wish to forget. Director Christian Alvart has since gone on to direct Pandorum, a fantastic sci-fi thriller set in space, and writer Ray Wright wrote the script to the successful remake of The Crazies, which was better in pacing, story and scares. I guess it’s a case of learning from your mistakes and moving forward, so here’s hoping you skip making the mistake, and go directly to the moving forward part, past this film, and onto better things you can do with your time.
Nothing bad can be said about the audio or video that the film is presented in. The Dolby Digital audio is given the dts-HD Master Audio treatment, and everything is loud and clear on all fronts. The picture quality is also solid, with the dark, thematic tones working well, and never dulling out the picture, or making it hard to see what’s going on at any time.
Filed Under “Evil”: Inside Case 39 – Probably the scariest part about this is how behind the film all the actors and crew seem to be. Obviously they wouldn’t be working on the film if they didn’t believe in it on some level, but something tells me that this was all done while filming was going on, and I stand by my statement that this is a film I bet they’d all like to put behind them. The featurette runs at eight minutes in length, and really just talks about how scary they thought the script was, and how nice it was to work with Renee, and so forth.
Turning Up the Heat on the Chill Factor – This is a four and a half minute featurette that focuses on a sequence where one of the actresses believes she’s on fire. We’re shown her make-up, and a quick, almost, making of the scene, though it’s more filler than anything.
Inside the Hornet’s Nest – This is a three minute featurette that focuses on the big death scene in the film that involves hornets, and their total destruction of Doug and his bathroom. Interestingly enough, this was the scene that every actor who read for the part really looked forward to doing, so much so, that the director set aside two days to film this scene alone. Granted, it was one of the best shot in the entire film, even though the CGI was incredibly bad, so I guess it was worthwhile.
Playing with Fire – Here’s another four and a half minute featurette that focuses on a climactic house fire scene that takes place in the film. We see the crew working with the pyrotechnics, and witness how it’s all set up and how it all comes together.
Deleted Scenes – There’s almost another movie in here entirely, as there are 18 deleted scenes to be found, included an alternate death sequence (which is weird, poorly shot, and almost laughable, yet at the same time, almost a better send-off than the one that actually made it to air) as well as an alternate ending. The alternate ending is so excruciatingly cliché that it would have made the movie even worse than it was had it been the ending to make the final cut. Yes, it’s that bad.
Somewhere, deep beneath all the clichés I can somewhat see why Case 39 may have garnered some interest; however, at the same time, there have got to be a hundred better psychological horror scripts floating around that should have been made before this one ever saw the light of day. The main problem is that there’s no real suspense to be had, as it’s completely obvious where the story is going, and how it’s going to get there. Not only does that hinder the movie from being scary, but it stops it from being interesting at all, as without the seed of doubt being planted in the viewer’s mind as to whether their suspicions are correct or not, you’re left simply waiting for the credits to role.
Paramount Home Entertainment presents Case 39. Directed by: Christian Alvart. Starring: Renee Zellweger, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper. Written by: Ray Wright. Running time: 109 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on Blu-ray: January 4, 2011.
Tags: Bradley Cooper, horror, Ian McShane