Review: Case 39


I just killed several people between here and the only theater near Boston showing Case 39. It’s a movie about a little girl who calls people on the phone and makes them kill people or kill themselves. In this way, it is like that videotape in The Ring, except it doesn’t stop with cast members. It affects the audience too.

Natalie Portman is not as lovely as this film is terrible.

I’m not really sure what I’m doing here. Who makes up the readership of this review? What is its purpose? Am I supposed to talk people out of seeing it? Let me tell you something, if any of you are seriously considering Case 39 for two hours of your life, I don’t even speak your language. I can’t help you because Jesus never performed miracles to that degree.

The movie is about a child services case worker who is stupid enough to grow emotionally attached to one young demonspawn, so much so that she successfully petitions for custody of the child.

Sound improbable? The script agrees.

Girl: Why can’t I live with you?

Caseworker: Honey, that would never be allowed.

But of course that’s quickly swept under the rug, and Emily opens her home to Lilith. 

Wait, Lilith!? You’re joking.  Why not just call her Damien?

This is accomplished by a speech to some foster placement board that never gets more persuasive than “The system blows goats. Cut the girl a break and let me claim her for my own.”

The little freak is played by Joe Dell Fur Land of Silent Hill and she doesn’t look a day older than she was in that 2006 movie, probably because Case 39 was shot around the same time and only just now drudged up for no apparent reason. I guess that explains why the most convincing performances are by Bradley Cooper and Callum Keith Rennie. Both actors had yet to prove their worth in The Hangover and Californication, respectively.  Cooper even manages to keep it together when his pint sized co-star is feeding him the worst specimen of child acting I’ve witnessed, and for that I nominate him for every green screen movie upcoming.

Case 39 is proof that if Bradley Cooper were filmed next to a twelve clown orgy just out of frame, he could still play intelligent, serious, and dashing at once.

Jodelle’s appearance, as if it weren’t strange enough, is occasionally tweaked by special effects that would resemble something from a Chris Cunningham music video of only this film had a larger budget. There’s never any question that her character is the source of all this wannabe terror and that her temporary foster mum is perfectly sane.

It might have worked better if crazy was left to question. There’s certainly a basis for it. Emily never notices that her cell phone has been missing the entire film, has no interest in pursuing any relationship with anyone besides a child she’s met twice, thinks the safest place to hide a knife is out in the open, and continues going to work every day after substantial evidence points to a supernatural monster living in her house.  By substantial I mean the child flat out threatens to kill her using magic.

 “I don’t want to go home,” says Emily to her boss.  Immediately after, she goes home.

There’s this threshold past which a really bad film begins to entertain us with just how bad it is.  Case 39 lies directly on the border.  Not scary, not funny.  Nothing.  I felt nothing.  Just an empty void.

Darkness , Feardotcom, The Haunting, and When a Stranger Calls are all better movies than Case 39.  If you consider any of those to be the worst movie ever, you’re wrong.  If there’s anything worse than Case 39 it was straight-to-video.