Tuesday, January 5, 2010
CASE 39: You might just be CASE 40 if you are easily scared or startled!
By FRANCIS DASS
Directed by Christian Alvart
Starring , , Ian McShane, Kerry O'Malley, , , Adrian Lester, Georgia Craig, , Mary Black
(SPOILER ALERT: The first paragraph pretty much reveals what the film is all about. Read on at your own peril.)
Remember that fabulous modern Japanese horror classic The Ring (Ringu) from 1998? If you are a horror aficionado, you probably do. Well, if dear departed and supremely demented pre-teen Sadako had an American kin, she would probably be very much like Lily in .
This movie starts off innocuosly enough. Lily (Jodelle Ferland) is just an ordinary child who is so very sweet. Sadly, she is having a troubled young life. Her grades, you see, are down. And she is unable to sleep. You'd be distressed too if your parents are trying to kill you all the time. And mind you, these are not her foster parents. These are her own BIOLOGICAL parents -- and they are very biologically intent on killing this sweet child.
(I know, I know -- that comparison with Sadako gave pretty much a lot away. But the real fun is in watching this film -- it is rather well constructed.)
Anyway, it should come as no surprise at all that a child welfare woman Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) is terribly concerned when she reads the case file numbered 39. She wonders if poor Lily is being abused in anyway at home. If that is the case, could Emily perchance do something to help the poor child?
Following departmental procedure, she pays Lily a visit and finds her parents' behaviour odd. To be frank, they are freaks. The opening scenes that extend to include Emily's visit, are excellent with really, REALLY tight shots (so tight, you feel like saying out aloud, apologetically, "Oh, so sorry Miss Zellweger -- I didn't mean to be so in your face! Oops, you two too -- Mr and Mrs Lily's parents!"). The tension during these moments are so, well, taut, in fact, if you were a musician, you could pluck the spooky Psycho violin tune during these times! Provided you could un-tense yourself, in the first place, to pluck the strings. The acting, of course, has to work for such directorial devices to work and the cast is rather up to the task.
Anyway, not following departmental procedure, Emily pokes her nose into the Lily family's affair and ends up rescuing the little girl from being roasted alive. Yes, literally, as her parents go completely Middle Eastern on Lily and try to "kebab" her.
Lily, is a little maestro at mind games and before you can say, "Emily you stupid fool...", Lily's parents are jailed and Emily has already taken the girl into her very own home. Oh, and a few people around Emily either die or are murdered under suspicious conditions soon after.
What transpires as a result and what Lily is capable of make for an intriguing watch indeed. Case 39 sees, Zellweger (who, incidentally, looks like she has those chipmunk cheeks that are full of nuts, or whatever!) giving a good leading lady performance. We can only hope she attends therapy regularly after being so frazzled playing the role. The child actress Ferland is suitably creepy and understated at times and menacingly over-the-top at the right moments. Mercifully, she is nothing like the horrid child actress that was -- Fanning always over-acted or constantly over-emoted and ruined many movies in the process! (However, luckily for movie addicts, Fanning has grown up finally understanding what tolerable acting is all about in "Push" and "New Moon").
Case 39 ends as it should and you won't leave the hall saying, "Why do all have such stupid endings, as if anyone wants to see a sequel!" Oops, did we just give away the ending?
This is not a major movie by any measure, so the spoliers sprinkled here should not spoil your appetite if you are an avid movie fan and enjoy a good scare!