Scary Stuff, Kids: Case 39, on DVD January 4, 2011
A ten-year-old girl named Lillith has Renee Zellweger singing “Some kids are demons…” in Case 39, a movie you think is going to be predictable, but is unpredictably scary and disturbing.
Zellweger plays a child services worker who believes so strongly that a child is in danger that she will go to extremes to intervene. Her dedication is not misdirected; one night the parents shove the girl into the oven, duct tape it shut, and light it. Zellweger and her cop friend (Ian McShane) show up just in time to save the child. The parents get shipped off to the loony bin, and Lillith enters “the system.”
The MPAA rating warns of “disturbing images,” and when we see the parents putting the kid in the oven and lighting it, and the child struggling and screaming from inside the warming oven, we know that the MPAA was not kidding. But—guess what—it gets worse.
When I was 12, I read George Orwell’s 1984 and the lesson I learned was not so much that someone is always watching (when you were 12 in the early sixties, someone was always watching), but never, ever tell anyone your worst fear. That will come back to haunt you. Bradley Cooper, as Zellweger’s love interest, also learns that lesson, but his enlightenment comes a little too late. For one viewer (me), the scene where his worst fear is realized was unwatchable. Each time I dared uncover my eyes, it got worse; I was cringing and screaming.
Since Case 39 is billed as a “supernatural thriller,” the audience expects that all is not as it seems with the sweet, scared little girl and her monstrous, maladjusted parents. When the social worker decides to be her foster mom until a suitable adoptive home is found, we sense she is making a big mistake. We’re not wrong.Continued on the next page