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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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
For kids who love scares
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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.