By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Dull "killer kid" tale features violence involving children.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie suggests that evil lurks everywhere, even in the sweetest and most innocent of children. You can't trust anybody or anything, and there's never any attempt to learn anything, to turn things around for the better, or to find hope in the world.
Positive Role Models
Emily is a social worker who ostensibly wants to help children, but this doesn't come from a place of generosity. She's frustrated and stressed and apparently incapable of forming any meaningful relationships of her own. She's short and abrupt with people and quick to mistrust them. Once she decides that the child is evil, she never really tries to help; her first impulse is to try to kill the child.
Violence & Scariness
Some violence involving children, including a sequence in which two parents push a girl into an oven and light it. She escapes, but the father pushes his boot into her back to stop her. They duct tape her mouth and smash her hand in the oven door. In another sequence, a boy kills his parents with a tire iron, though no actual "contact" is shown; viewers see blood on the walls and pillows. Adults fight: Viewers see a man with a broken jaw, a man gets stabbed in the neck with a fork, and another man falls on the same fork (it impales him in the eye). Also images of a woman on fire, a dog attack, shooting guns, a speeding car (with a child on board), a burning house, scary demons, and several sudden shocks.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some flirting between grown-ups.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
A couple of uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "hell," "ass," and "oh my God."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Characters drink Heineken beer in a bar.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink a beer in a bar, and the main character enjoys a glass of wine at home. The main character also grinds up sleeping pills into a cup of tea to give to the demon child.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Case 39 is part of the "killer children" horror subgenre, in which children are shown to be evil and homicidal; it's a psychologically effective and scary idea, but this movie is mainly out for shocks rather than exploring anything deeper. There's lots of violence, including some scenes involving children (in one particularly disturbing sequence, adults push a girl into an oven and light it), as well as other deaths and injuries. Language includes a few uses of "f--k" and "s--t," while sex, drinking, and drugs aren't prevalent.
To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
Based on 5 parent reviews
Another edge of your seat movie
Report this review
Report this review
What's the Story?
Stressed social worker Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) is assigned one more case in addition to the 38 she already has, a young girl named Lilith (Jodelle Ferland). Emily visits the home and discovers that the girl's parents are showing signs of abuse. Emily decides to take Lilith in until a good foster home can be found -- but unfortunately, everyone around Emily quickly begins dying, starting with her psychologist friend, Doug (Bradley Cooper). Emily starts to believe that maybe Lilith is the problem, rather than her parents. Can she get anyone to believe her before it's too late?
Is It Any Good?
The "demon child" subgenre of horror movies is an old one, stretching from The Bad Seed to The Omen to the more recent Orphan, and Case 39 doesn't have anything fresh to add. Completed in 2007, CASE 39 sat around for a long time before being unceremoniously dump in theaters in 2010; in the meantime, director Christian Alvart went on to make the effectively moody Pandorum, but this movie is a dud.
In these movies, the horror springs from the concept that the purest and most innocent of all creatures -- a child -- can harbor murderous evil. But Case 39 doesn't seem to understand this; there's no real emotional draw to the characters, and they don't seem connected to one another. Alvart counts on jump shocks and sudden noises for his scary scenes, and none of it works very well. The movie never digs deeper into its premise.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
- In theaters: October 1, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: January 4, 2011
- Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ian McShane, Jodelle Ferland, Renee Zellweger
- Director: Christian Alvart
- Studio: Paramount Vantage
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence and terror including disturbing images
- Last updated: June 2, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Watch
Our Editors Recommend
Best Horror Movies
Scary Movies for Kids
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate