Review: Case 39

PLOT: A social worker (Renee Zellweger) adopts an abused young girl (Jodelle Ferland) who may in fact be a demon in disguise. Oops.

REVIEW: CASE 39 is the latest in a long line of `demon child` films that have been making a comeback in the last few years. For my money, the only good films in this genre were ROSEMARY`S BABY, THE EXORCIST, and THE OMEN (the original, thank you very much), and considering that the newest film on that list came out in 1976, this is a genre that has played itself out. Badly.


Really, there`s not much to distinguish CASE 39 from ORPHAN, or JOSHUA, which were both “adoption from hell” stories, and just as predictable. In fact, the only thing noteworthy about CASE 39 is it’s tortured production history, which this having been shot way back in 2006, and has gathered dust in the Paramount vault ever since.

Truth be told, CASE 39 has only really be deemed unreleasable in North America, as this hit European and Latin American theatres awhile ago, and it’s already on DVD in some countries. Having finally seen the film for myself, I can assure readers that yes, this is a big steaming pile of crap, but- probably not so bad as to justify four years on the shelf.

One of the most telling signs that CASE 39 wrapped a long time ago is the casting, with Renee Zellweger, whose career has faltered over the last few years, being the star of the show, and rising star Bradley Cooper, being regulated to a small supporting role. It’s too bad Zellweger’s career has panned out the way it has, as I was a fan of hers back in the day. Back around the time she did JERRY MAGUIRE, I had a king-size crush on her, and I thought she was fantastic in BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY- which was the rare chick flick that didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out. Without a doubt, COLD MOUNTAIN was her last good film, and it’s sad to see her wasted in schlock like this.

Nevertheless, she’s actually not bad in CASE 39, with her downplaying the hysteria you might expect from the role. She’s no Naomi Watts in THE RING, but she gets the job done. Young Jodelle Ferland makes a suitably creepy hell spawn, but this also seems like old hat for her, with her having played a similar role in SILENT HILL.

The most effective cast-member here is Ian McShane, in a thankless role as Renee’s cop buddy, who- in a nifty scene, gets to break Callum Keith Rennie’s jaw on a refrigerator door. Sadly, he all but disappears from the film after the first act, only popping up from time to time so Renee can vent about how creepy her new daughter is.

The storyline is pretty weak, with Zellweger rescuing Ferland from her abusive parents, who try to roast her alive in the family oven. They’re convinced she’s evil and guess what? Turns out they’re not so loony after all.

From there, the film just races toward it’s predictable lame conclusion, before petering out in a hilariously abrupt ending. This is director Christian Alvert’s second big American film after PANDORUM (although this was shot first), and judging from these two films, I can’t say I’m a fan. This film is completely devoid of any decent scares, and the only scene that’s somewhat memorable is the big “bug scene” where Bradley Cooper has an unfortunate run in with some hornets. Other than that, this screams “straight to DVD” which I suppose is where this belongs.

I really can’t imagine who the audience is for CASE 39, as it’s too tame to fulfil hardcore horror fans, and too dumb to satisfy those seeking a thriller with substance. It’s as lame as can be, and despite sitting on the shelf for four years, it’s not even bad enough to be unintentionally funny. It’s just boring- plain and simple. Skip it.

Review: Case 39




About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.