Thursday, January 14, 2010

CASE 39: Predictable Bad Seed Thriller

CASE 39 (horror thriller)
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Kerry O'Malley, Callum Keith Rennie, Bradley Cooper and Adrian Lester
Director: Christian Alvart
Screenplay: Ray Wright
Time: 108 mins

Rating: * * (out of 4)

Zellweger and Ferland

PREAMBLE: Many parents see their kids as "little devils" but no one would ever dream of putting them in the oven and turning on the heat. This is what threatens to happen in Case 39 and yes, we are into another Bad Seed thriller. If you have seen The Omen or The Orphan, this one will be pretty predictable when you get halfway into the film.

However, what is curious about Christian Alvart's Case 39 is the way the film was shelved for almost two years before being released in the UK and Asia. Could it be the case of the jitters over its controversial subject? Nawww, I think the owners were worried about its marketability.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT? Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) is a devoted family services officer who takes on more than she can handle when she is assigned Case 39. This is the case of 10-year-old Lillith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland), an obvious victim of child abuse. Emily breaks her own rules of not getting personally involved when she takes the child into her own home.

Expectedly, harm seems to come to everyone who is into contact with Lillith and Emily finds herself in a precarious and irrational situation. Emily has two friends she turns to for help: a child counsellor (Bradley Cooper) and a cop (Ian McShane as Mike Barron) who comes in handy because something is clearly not right with Lilith.

HITS & MISSES: Director Alvart, who later gave us the insepid Pandorum, is not someone who is inventive or original. He throws in cheap 'sudden' scares as well as ideas loaned from other thrillers like The Omen (fierce rottweilers and bees flying out of one's nose and mouth) and lots of unexplained occurrences to jolt us.

Zellweger does her utmost - including pouts, shrieks and screams - to convey the terror Emily is facing but she is burdened by an unconvincing plot. Her co-stars support well, especially young Ferland as the creepy Lilith.

THE LOWDOWN: Better leave this Case alone.


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