No Need to Fear ‘Case 39′

What are you afraid of? Is it “evil?” Is it “death?” Or is it someone in particular who makes you feel that both have made you their target? Many films in the past have explored the nature of what makes us afraid. But “Case 39,” a horror mystery and thriller directed by Christian Alvart (“Pandorum”), takes a different spin on the traditional view of fear by touching the heart of the famously quoted, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” After all, just how terrifying is “fear itself”?

Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger) is a social worker, her life crammed with 38 cases of child abuse and neglect. One day, to her horror and protest, one more is slapped onto her desk – a case concerning an “innocent” looking girl by the name of Lilith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland) who is said to be experiencing neglect from her rather paranoid parents.

Through a turn of events and a bit of fighting on her part, Emily finds herself excitedly taking in Lilith into her own home. That is when things start to get a little strange as Emily comes face to face with a demon she willingly invited right into her life. She also discovers that maybe Lilith’s parents had a right to be paranoid.

The wonderful part about “Case 39” is that everything “echoes.” With the exception of an arbitrary stuffed Totoro, everything is beautifully tied together. Even the tiniest details such as an ice cream cone – a prop so completely random and out of place that it baffles the viewer – ends up being repeated later on. The audience is bound to be on the edge of their seat.

And things are far from predictable or cliché. A completely unique thriller is created that separates it from other “demon-child” films prior. While a demon-child is an established trope, this is not the religious or horror type of demonic influence that is present. In fact, there is nothing particularly religious or horrific about it. “Case 39” lacks the usual focus on spirituality, such as exorcists and the divinity of God, though there are subtle mentions and hints.

Yet, these are just part of the little details which enhance the plot as to the true mystery of Lilith. Those who are familiar with demons will hardly find themselves complaining. As for horror, this film is easier classified as a mystery-thriller.

“Case 39” is more of a nightmare for the protagonist than the viewers, unless of course you consider the usual “jump” scenes. The point is, this is not one to make you terrified to walk down the street at night.

The actors themselves all played their roles rather well. Right away, you get an understanding of the type of person they are, both by their actions and their appearance. The only downside is that it does not quite change. Perhaps this was the intent though, especially with the Sullivan family. In the beginning, you get off right away that something is wrong outside of appearances, and that merely adds to the mystery.

In all, it was a great film, not the type one would go demanding others to see, but it is easily enjoyable. There is something in it for everyone. The true purpose though is the message at the core of the film itself: “The only thing to fear is fear itself,” but even that can be conquered.