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Most of the time misbehaving children just piss me off, in Case 39, it creeped me out. There is something to be said for the acting job done by Jodelle Ferland playing the evil little Lilith Sullivan where instead of wanting to spank her you want to throw holy water at her and see what happens.
Case 39 starts off at a steady and purposeful pace, telling the story of Emily Jenkins played by Renee Zellweger. Emily is an over worked social worker with child protective services. She is currently juggling 38 cases and already overwhelmed when her boss, Wayne played by Adrian Lester, drops another one on her lap (do the math and win a prize... also win the movie title). Being the diligent worker she is Emily follows up on the case and finds a sweet little girl (the above mentioned demon spawn Lilith) and her parents Edward and Margaret (Kerry O'Malley and Callum Keith Rennie).
It is obvious right from the start the parents are off, way off the reservation, and Emily picks up on this immediately. She brings them in for questioning and watches them closely looking for anything she can to get Lilith away from them. She even brings her police buddy Mike Barron (the great Ian McShane) in on the case and it's a good thing she does for when the parent's Sullivan attempt to gruesomely murder Lilith, Emily and Mike are there to save her. This will be hence forth known as mistake number one.
With the parents Sullivan in jail, Emily takes the odd stance of trying to foster parent Lilith. As it turns out this is exactly what Lilith wanted as she has been manipulating the whole situation to this exact outcome. See, this is what evil children do, they manipulate but they do it with a smile on their face and a lollipop in their mouth. You look at this little girl and you just see sweet and innocent, but when they start to turn her and show her true colors you can't help but shiver. There is one scene in particular where Doug (played by Bradley Cooper) child psychiatrist extraordinaire and love interest of Emily is working with Lilith and she drops the good girl force shield and opens up on him with all guns blazing. When she is done his is left overwhelmed, frightened and shaking. He says later that in all of his years working with troubled children he has never felt so threatened and given the look on his face I believe him. Of course he dies later, which isn't really a shock, or at least shouldn't be, but it's the way he dies that you need to pay attention to.
In the end Case 39 is not a great horror movie, it may start off that way but it has trouble holding on. It averages out to be a good horror movie, but even in that has some failings. A good horror movie is like making love to a beautiful woman (actually its nothing like that but follow me here for a second) if you don't take your time building it up then the climax isn't really going to be that great. Case 39 rushes to tell you what's going on. They are far too proud of the plot they developed and the creepy things they want this little girl to do. Thus they rush you along because they think the ending is going to be so great that you want it to get here in a hurry. In fact we do want the ending to get here in a hurry but not for the same reasons the writers do. We have one half of a great movie, well-acted with a high creep factor, but after that things degrade into poor writing and has a less than stellar ending. In the horror movie genre it is still worth watching and still good I just felt they made a mistake with how they ended it and what they decided to show.
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