Director: Christian Alvart Release Date: March 5 Review by Tara Judah If you didn’t already know better you might just think of Hollywood as an ambassador for preventing further overpopulation, the way they’ve started pumping out the evil child horror flicks of late. From the bastard seed that stirs within Casey’s unwed womb in The Unborn (2009) to Kate’s alcoholic induced stillbirth in Orphan (2009), all the way up unto Emily’s single woman workaholic woes in Case 39 (2009); Hollywood are peddling a new brand of hysteria and apparently if you don’t rear your children with wholesome, traditional family values, no matter how good you are, the child you are given will be evil incarnate, killing off your nearest and dearest just for kicks. But Hollywood is not an ambassador; it’s a factory that produces product well beyond the parameters of “supply and demand”. Having continually had its release date pushed back so that no one can even remember seeing the trailer, Case 39 is exemplary in proving Hollywood’s po-faced output of surplus produce. As with Orphan and The Unborn, Case 39 is something of a dramatic thriller with elements of horror thrown in rather than a straight up horror film. And whilst this may well better serve the purpose of fear-mongering thousands of impressionable and every so slightly wayward young women around the world, it’s ultimately boring (not to mention insulting). The narrative plods along for almost half the total runtime before anything even close to ‘exciting’ occurs. What should be the successful building of tension feels more like an extended screen test showcasing what limited abilities the film’s lead actress (Renee Zellweger) possesses. A self-righteous, self-loathing workaholic who can’t for one second begin to understand the spectrum of mental health issues that drive many people to horrific and criminal acts of violence, Emily is presented as a lonely, but ultimately ‘good’ person in a world where some things and some people are characterised as ‘bad’. The simplicity with which these themes are dealt would appall even the most irrational of viewers. Already swamped with thirty-eight active cases, social worker Emily must investigate and assess the nature of young Lillith’s abuse in what will be for her, Case 39. After a brief questioning of whether or not “the system” works, Emily goes beyond her call of duty to save the child, eventually petitioning to take Lillith into her own care. Having established that the system works fine and that we really ought to leave such things well alone if we don’t want the devil knocking on our doors, Case 39 swiftly turns on psychologists and psychiatrists, sullying their reputations in rapid succession. Suggesting group therapy is a place where evil can manipulate others and prey upon their weaknesses, Case 39 undermines the processes of cognitive therapies and the very idea of rehabilitation. In addition to the aforementioned waves of hysteria there is too a wee stab at the perils of modern technology; mobile phones providing the literal means through which the devil’s message is communicated. But perhaps most unbelievable of all is the idea that you ought to take extra care locking away any potentially upsetting or violent content from your children, lest they make a Daily Mail-esque discovery of such items, for this would lead clearly and directly to the further corruption of their already at risk souls. Relying far too heavily upon the question, “what scares you?” and its dull, resolute conclusion that if you face your fears they’ll go away, Case 39 wants very much to be a moralistic modern day fairy tale almost as much as it wants to be a horror film. Sadly, it doesn’t fair particularly well as either, the most terrifying moments motivated entirely from the one genuinely good performance in the film, provided by fifteen-year-old Jodelle Ferland (Tideland). If you liked Orphan or better yet, British corkers Eden Lake (2008) and The Children (2008), then Case 39 is probably a good choice of horror film for you. But if you like your horror to err on the side of social commentary rather than social hysteria then there’s really no need to take one hundred and nine minutes of punishment from a factory persistently producing unnecessary panic. Photobucket