Case 39 Movie Review

October 8, 2010

I thought it might be cool to review new horror/action movies and also try and relate them to gaming. Keep in mind that the only experience or training I have at all is that I’ve seen a bunch of movies…

Case 39
Directed by Christian Alvart
109 Minutes


Rating System: 0 – 5 Bubbly Head Deaths with 0 being the lowest and five being the highest.

THE REVIEW
As far as horror flicks go, Case 39 is a by-the-numbers example of the “Demon Child” sub-genre. Renee Zellweger (hereafter referred to as Squinty) stars as Emily, an overworked social worker who takes on the case of Lilith (Jodelle Ferland), a tiny, yet unsettling 10-year old girl in trouble. Emily already has a full plate of 38 cases when her boss assigns Lilith’s case to her (see, that makes Lilith “Case 39” – now the title makes sense!) After meeting Lilith’s creepy parents, Squinty is convinced that something is amiss and she and her cop friend Mike (Ian McShane – who obviously had a boat payment due) have the parents arrested and Squinty is assigned custody of Lilith.

Soon Lilith starts acting all possessed-kid-like and people around Squinty start saying lines like “I think something is wrong with this kid, I’ll make a few calls in the morning” and then BAM! They die before the morning and the aforementioned phone calls ever come.

The final reel, with the exception of one clever bit about a pet fish, is standard horror film stuff about Squinty and her dwindling number of friends attempting to stop the evil, possessed, Lilith.

The biggest thing I came away with from Case 39 is: if a creepy 10-year old girl asks you what you’re afraid of, DON’T ANSWER HER!

I counted two ‘cat’ scares, a bunch of bad CGI bees, and only one sequence that I would consider ‘creepy.’ Surprisingly, there were also very few Cthulhu research moments in the film. The film makers were very vague on what sort of demon was involved. They give the audience one cryptic line about something bad replacing Lilith’s soul at birth.

My biggest complaint about the film was the character arc of Squinty. She jumps into “Lilith is a demon and must be destroyed” mode way too easy and with very little direct evidence. This killed the film for me. You see, my friend and business partner Joseph M. Griffin, esquire, has postulated that every horror movie character has a moment in their film where they realize they’re in a horror movie. The timing of this moment is key. If the characters make this jump too soon, then the film will lose the audience. Remember, at the beginning of the film, these characters don’t know they’re in a horror movie, so when they hear the weird noise, their first assumption should not be “Supernatural Entity/Masked killer.” They have to be presented with enough irrefutable evidence that the only conclusion they can logically come to is “Supernatural.” In the good horror movies, this moment usually happens just as they’re dying or going insane, but it’s believable. Horror audiences, probably more than any other genre, demand that. Please note that I am in no way condoning characters walking around by themselves and yelling “Hello.” In any type of film, that’s just dumb…Maybe not porn.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE
Horror gaming is the same way. Just because the players know it’s a horror game, the characters don’t. They have to make that journey just like a character in a film. I was GMing a Cthulhu game once where the characters were all reporters. Right at the beginning of the game, when they were all leaving the newspaper office to start the investigation, one of the players asked if his character could have a tommy gun. Really – a tommy gun? But you’re a reporter. The character had no reason to take one, nothing supernatural or even potentially dangerous had even been suggested to the players, yet he wanted one. Why? Because the player knew it was a horror game, and there was an evil beastie lurking at the end of the story. That kills the mood right there.

Now, players can do it that way, but isn’t it better if you don’t? Try playing it where the characters believe what most of us do; that ghosts and goblins don’t exist in the really real world, and then go through the story and see how that belief is challenged and ultimately changed. There’s a chance to have some fun! How does your character react when your whole foundation of what is real and what is make believe starts crumbling around you? If your character dies in the process, so what? It’s just a game, and sometimes dying can be hoot!

‘Course, what do I know?

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One Response to “Case 39 Movie Review”

  1. […] out his reviews of Case 39 and My Soul To Take. Starting next week, he’ll be tackling some classic monster movies as […]

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