Case 39 (review)

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How sad is it when a horror movie appears to be aiming for overwrought and still ends up underbaked? This overly familiar, wholly unoriginal would-be psychological thriller provokes few reactions outside of boredom and — in, sadly, too few moments — derisive laughter. Renee Zellweger (Monsters vs. Aliens) is an overworked but conscientious social worker, so she does her best when she’s handed her 39th active case, right up to taking in the young girl (Jodelle Ferland) after her parents try to kill her. (Biggest waste of a concentrated talent? Underappreciated Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie [Battlestar Galactica] as the kid’s desperate father. Though Ian McShane [The Sorcerer’s Apprentice] as a cop is a close second.) Apparently Zellweger has seen none of the 10,000 other demon-child flicks, and even the kid’s name — Lilith, same as a certain legendary demoness, in a certain twisted version of Biblical folklore — doesn’t tip her off. Because, yup, nice sweet adorable Lily is Satan incarnate, and it doesn’t take long for Zellweger to start catching on. Funniest bit could be Zellweger’s attempt to demon-child-proof her house, or perhaps it’s kid-shrink Bradley Cooper’s (The A-Team) hilarious death at the mental mindgaming hands of Lily, who can kill merely by talking to people about their greatest fears. The Satanic power comes and goes as convenient, but mostly it serves as an excuse to allow Lily to do whatever screenwriter Ray Wright (The Crazies) believes will advance his poor pretense of a plot, which features, as a highlight, people behaving in deeply stupid ways even when they know what they’re up against. This flick, from director Christian Alvart, who appears well on his way to hackdom, has been sitting on a shelf for more than a year (and is already available on DVD around the world), and would have been better left there.

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