The F*cking Black Sheep: Case 39 (2009)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Case 39 (2009)
Directed by Christian Alvart

“Well, damn it, Case 39 works, whether I wanted it to or not.”

Even big time actresses have it tough in Hollywood. Usually, they’ll be lucky to have a solid ten year run as the hottest thing on the market (in terms of box office and hotness, of course) until father time slaps them around and hijacks that young sex appeal. Roles dry up faster then their inner workings. For the guys, well, they have the advantage of maintaining sex appeal for decades, sometimes all the way until retirement (Connery, you know). Women, meanwhile, seem lucky to still be remembered past their mid-30s. Case in point: Miss Renee Zellweger.

Like her or not, she had her moment in time as a Hollywood darling (sour apple face and all), and now, well, I’m sure she’s trying to get another Bridget Jones’ Diary up and running. In fact, it wasn’t until I randomly watched Case 39 that I honestly remembered she still existed. In other words, my expectations for Case 39 were ten degrees below zero, especially since it was held back years after completion and dumped upon release. It was one of those desperate-need-a second-film-for-the-evening kinda of night. So why’s it apart of the Sheep? Well, damn it, Case 39 works, whether I wanted it to or not. The scope isn’t grand and the ideas aren’t exactly groundbreaking, but so what. It’s effectively entertaining with a demonic kid and enough kills, screams, and blood to keep a date happy.

For Renee, it’s tough to blame her for making a horror flick. After selling her soul to the ruler of romantic comedy hell, she deserved a chance to do something new. She did the drama thing well, but it was time for her to return to horror, something she hadn’t dabbled in since 1994’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (a movie that desperately needed a Worf or Data appearance). After all, big time stars generally don’t make a horror flick unless it’s either the at start or conclusion of their careers.

But I digress, in Case 39, Renee stars as Emily Jenkins, a social worker with a heart of gold who’s frustrated by the man and by the system. She’s overworked with 38 cases chilling on her desk, but when the 39th case gets dropped on her, it’s just too much. Obviously, she takes the case, and as the movie poster says, “Some cases should never be opened.” Well, good thing she opened it because otherwise the movie would probably be about how lonely she is, watching Real Housewives and eating buckets of M&M’s. Since she took the case though, we get a creepy, dark, dramatic, and demented little movie when she takes in an abused girl to keep her from the hells of foster care. The kid is Lilith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland), who’s oddball parents seemingly wanted to knock her off. Lucky for the kid, Renee shows up one night when Lilith’s parents shoved her in an oven at 450 degrees until death (a tough scene to watch. Cooking a kid is pretty bad and actually illegal in most states).

Oh sure, Case 39 easily comparable to about 252 other creepy killer-kid movies, but again, so what. There’s a reason this sub-genre never dies. Murderous, f-ed kids are about the freakiest thing outside of clowns and dentures. With that said, I’d mainly compare Case 39 to two things: Orphan and Twilight Zone. The obvious film is the Omen, but considering all killer kid movies find comparison to it, let’s skip that one. Instead, I don’t think Case 39 is nearly as memorable as Orphan or even close to as demented, but Case 39 equals it for sheer simple entertainment. It's got enough twists and turns to keep the thing moving with minimal watch checks.

More so, Case 39 owes everything to the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life,” where a little Opie-looking kid uses special powers to make everyone fear him and bow to his every demand. Renee and company should fear little Lilith too, not only because her name is scary, but because she also has hidden powers. I won’t spoil anything, but if you’ve seen the trailer and realize that Bradley Cooper basically makes a glorified cameo, he’s gets dead by having a bundle of hornets shoot out of his mouth only to kill him. I don’t know about you, but that’s a shitty way to die. And since its Cooper who gets killed, that only makes Case 39 that much more enjoyable. If only those hornets would have escaped from Renee's cheeks, then we've have a masterpiece.





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