The Thirty-Nine Steps
In the psychological thriller Case 39 (2009): 5 out of 10:, we are introduced to Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger), a compassionate social worker who becomes entangled in a nightmarish world of supernatural horrors.
Emily is assigned the case of a young girl named Lilith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland), who is trapped in an abusive and dangerous household. Concerned for the child’s safety, Emily takes Lilith into her own care. However, as she delves deeper into Lilith’s background, Emily discovers a disturbing truth. – the girl is not what she appears to be.
As Emily’s relationship with Lilith develops, she witnesses a series of horrifying events that suggest the child is connected to supernatural forces. People die under mysterious circumstances, and Emily suspects Lilith may be responsible. Desperate to protect herself and those around her, Emily enlists the help of Detective Mike Barron (Ian McShane) to unravel the truth behind Lilith’s dark powers.
As the investigation unfolds, Emily finds herself caught in a race against time to save not only her own life, but also the lives of those she holds dear. With each terrifying revelation, Emily realizes she has unwittingly entered into a battle against an ancient evil force that feeds on fear and despair. Can she uncover the truth behind Lilith’s origins and put an end to the horrors before it’s too late?
Case 39 takes audiences on a heart-pounding journey filled with suspense, psychological thrills, and unexpected twists. It explores the blurred lines between good and evil while raising thought-provoking questions about the true nature of evil and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love. Brace yourself for a chilling rollercoaster ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
The Good: A couple of positive notes. I can watch Ian McShane (John Wick) in almost anything. He is a breath of fresh air here. Also a plus, on the acting front, is Jodelle Ferland as the demon child. She is accurately irritating, as only a preadolescent can be. Honestly, you could remove the “Demon” powers and you would barely have to change the character.
The other plus is Case 39 is a superb story. It is almost a reworking of the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life” that was remade brilliantly by Joe Dante for Twilight Zone: The Movie. Renée Zellweger adopts a child that makes things happen by just thinking about it. But without the maturity of an adult. It is a scary thought. Like coming home and finding all your house cats are all now two thousand pounds.
The Bad: Of course a great story idea cannot survive a poor script. I have no idea if Renée Zellweger is any good in Case 39. She barely has a developed character. Which is problematic for the film’s lead. The script constantly has her acting to move the plot forward rather than in a manner that would make sense for any particular characterization. As a result, is a protagonist that is all over the place.
There are lots of jump scares before one would reasonably think there should be jump scares. As if there was a quota. In this manner, Case 39 reminds me of The Brink (2006) where they managed jump scares taking the groceries in a half an hour before they “released the evil”
The Ugly: Special effects were added later on a budget and in many cases we have special effects where one would think none would be needed. It is as if the studio said we need CGI to release this film but good lord don’t throw good money after bad.
Case 39 spent a couple of years on the shelf before it was released. Even worse, the script clearly spent a lot of time in a drawer just based on the sheer number of house phones used in the film.
In Conclusion: Case 39 is not awful per se, just nothing terribly memorable and certainly nothing worth going out of your way to see. A waste of some talented actors despite a pretty good story idea.