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Case 39

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Case 39

Theatrical film poster
Directed by Christian Alvart
Produced by Lisa Bruce
Steve Golin
Alix Madigan
Kevin Misher
Written by Ray Wright
Starring Renée Zellweger
Jodelle Ferland
Ian McShane
Bradley Cooper
Music by Michl Britsch
Cinematography Hagen Bodanski
Editing by Mark Goldblatt
Studio Paramount Vantage
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) August 13, 2009 (New Zealand)
October 1, 2010 (United States)
Running time 109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $26 million[1]
Box office $28.2 million[2]

For other uses of the word Succubus, see Succubus (disambiguation).

Case 39 is a 2009 American supernatural psychological horror film directed by Christian Alvart, and starring Renée Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Bradley Cooper and Ian McShane.

The film was shot in Vancouver in late 2006 and was released theatrically in the UK, European and Latin American countries on August 13, 2009. The film was initially scheduled for America release in August 2008, but was delayed twice before its final release date on October 1, 2010.

In this film, the character Lilith "Lily" Sullivan can be described as a kind of Succubus.


Emily Jenkins (Renée Zellweger) is a social worker living in Oregon, who is assigned to investigate the family of ten-year-old Lilith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland), as her grades have declined and an emotional rift with her parents has emerged. Emily suspects that the parents have been mistreating Lilith . Emily's fears are confirmed when Lilith's parents try to kill her by gassing her in the oven at home. Emily saves Lilith with the help of Detective Mike Barron (Ian McShane). Lilith is originally sent to a children's home, but she begs Emily to look after her instead. With the agreement of the board, Emily is assigned to take care of Lilith until a suitable foster family comes along. In the meantime, Lilith's parents, Edward and Margaret (Callum Keith Rennie and Kerry O'Malley) are placed in a mental institution.

Not too long after Lilith moves in, strange things begin to happen around Emily. Two weeks later, another of Emily's cases, a boy named Diego (Alexander Conti), suddenly murders his parents with a crowbar, and Barron informs Emily that somebody phoned Diego from her house the night before the crime. As she is suspected of involvement in the incident, Lilith undergoes a psychiatric evaluation by Emily's best friend, Douglas J. Ames (Bradley Cooper). During the session, however, Lilith turns the evaluation around, asking Douglas what his fears are and subtly threatening him. That night after receiving a strange phone call, Douglas is panicked by a mass of hornets coming out of his body in hysteria and kills himself in the bathroom.

Emily gradually becomes fearful of Lilith, so she heads to the mental asylum for answers from Lilith's parents. They tell her that, far from being truly human, Lilith is actually a Succubus-like demon who feeds on emotion, and that they had tried to kill her in an attempt to save themselves. Lilith's father tells Emily that the only way to kill Lilith is to get her to sleep. Shortly after Emily leaves the asylum, Lilith's mother hallucinates being on fire, and her father is stabbed in the eye after attacking a fellow inmate through whom the voice of Lilith spoke. Barron initially thinks Emily should seek psychiatric help, but is later convinced when he receives a strange phone call in his home from Lilith. He arms himself to help Emily. However, he fatally shoots himself in the head with his shotgun, as Lilith makes him imagine he is being attacked by dogs.

After realizing that her closest colleagues have been eliminated, and that the rest of her cases will be next, Emily serves Lilith tea spiked with sedative. While Lilith is asleep, Emily sets fire to her house, hoping to get rid of her. However, the girl apparently escapes unharmed (from this point on, the audience may wonder whether Lilith is really present or Emily is hallucinating her presence). A police officer offers to escort Emily and Lilith to a temporary place to sleep. As Emily is following the police cars, she suddenly takes a different route and drives her car at a high speed, hoping to bring fear to Lilith . Instead, Lilith forces Emily to relive her childhood memory of her mother driving fast in a rainstorm. Emily fights through the memory, telling herself that it is not real. The image fades, and Lilith appears scared by the fact that Emily was able to fight through her illusion.

Emily drives the car off a pier. As the car sinks, Emily struggles to lock Lilith (now in her demonic true form) in the trunk. Emily then attempts to swim to the surface. The demon grabs Emily's foot to stop her from swimming away but Emily struggles and eventually breaks free, as a trapped Lilith sinks to the bottom. Emily climbs out of the water and sits on the pier.

Alternate Ending

On the DVD as a deleted scene in the Special Features section, Emily careens through the harbor gate and drives the car off the pier into the bay just as in the theatrical ending. The car sinks to the bottom and fills with water. Suddenly, a man swims down to the car, opens Lilith's door, and carries her to the surface, leaving Emily behind. Emily tries unsuccessfully to open her door but begins to pass out. Suddenly, the man reappears and frees her, too. As an ambulance carries Emily away, a news broadcast details the event, and Margaret Sullivan can be seen watching it. In the final scenes, Emily can be seen in handcuffs, frantically pleading with her lawyer to tell her where Lilith is, while Lilith arrives at the home of her new foster family.


  • Renée Zellweger as Emily Jenkins
  • Jodelle Ferland as Lilith "Lily" Sullivan
  • Ian McShane as Detective Mike Barron
  • Bradley Cooper as Douglas J. Ames
  • Callum Keith Rennie as Edward Sullivan
  • Kerry O'Malley as Margaret Sullivan
  • Adrian Lester as Wayne
  • Georgia Craig as Denise
  • Cynthia Stevenson as Nancy
  • Alexander Conti as Diego


On October 31, 2006, a fire started on the film's set in Vancouver. None of the cast were on the set at the time and nobody was seriously injured, though the set and studio were destroyed.[3]


The film had many planned release dates, since it first began production in 2006. Its initial planned US release was February 8, 2008, which was changed to February 22, 2008.[4] It was then moved to August 22, 2008,[5] and then moved again to April 10, 2009. Then it got pushed back to a January 1, 2010, and even further when the official US release date was confirmed to be October 1, 2010.[6]

Its release date was also pushed back in Australia and Mexico.[7][8]

In the UK, the film was originally scheduled for release in April 2009,[9] before being rescheduled to September 4,[10] then September 25,[11][12][13] 2009, and then December 11, 2009, where it was trailed in cinemas as part of the multi-film distributors' 'Autumn Cinema'[14][15] advertising campaign. It was finally released on March 5, 2010.

Box Office

Case 39 was released to New Zealand cinemas on August 13, 2009 and in its opening weekend was ranked #12 with NZ$35,056.[16] Averaging NZ$1,845 at the 19 cinemas it was released, the film failed to garner attendance. The film opened at a small wide release in Australia, being shown on 85 screens. The film ranked #12 in its opening weekend with a screen average of AU$2,077 for a gross of AU$176,526. Extremely negative local reviews and a poor opening were followed by a 70% second weekend decrease. The film grossed a total of AU$332,956. The film grossed a total of US$14,926,149 from its international run ahead of its U.S. release.[17]

In its debut weekend in the United States, the film opened at #7 with an estimated US$5,350,000 in 2,211 theaters, averaging US$2,420 per cinema.[18]

Critical Reception

Case 39 received mostly negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 23% rating, based on 69 reviews, with the consensus stating, "Director Christian Alvert has a certain stylish flair, but it's wasted on Case 39's frightless, unoriginal plot."[19] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 25 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[20]

Gareth Jones of Dread Central gave the film 2 out of 5 knives, saying, "I'm sure it will do decent business among the undemanding weekend-horror crowd and Zellweger fans when it eventually sees the light of day. Nobody else need apply."[21] Margaret Pomeranz of the Australian version of At the Movies gave the film one out of 5 stars, calling it "one of the least scary, dumbest movies I’ve seen in a long time". Co-host David Stratton gave it 1½ out of 5, commenting that "once it sort of kicks into the plot – once it really gets down to the nitty gritty, like so many horror films it just becomes really ridiculous and silly".[22]


  1. Fritz, Ben (September 30, 2010). "Movie projector: 'Social Network' looks strong; 'Let Me In' and 'Case 39' will struggle". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2010/09/movie-projector-social-network-looks-strong-let-me-in-and-case-39-will-struggle.html. Retrieved September 30, 2010. 
  2. "Case 39 (2010)". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=case39.htm. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  3. Robert Matas (2006-11-02). "Special-effects fire destroys movie set". globeandmail.com. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/Page/document/v5/content/subscribe?user_URL=http://www.theglobeandmail.com%2Fservlet%2Fstory%2FLAC.20061102.BCBRIEFS02-1%2FTPStory%2FNational&ord=1168654516558&brand=theglobeandmail&force_login=true. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  4. "Paramount Date Changes: 'The Ruins' and 'Case 39'". Archived from the original on 2009-07-27. http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/news/9539. 
  5. "Paramount Shifts 'Case 39' To August of 2008!". Archived from the original on 2008-11-20. http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/news/10019. 
  6. "Paramount Shifts 'Case 39' to 2009... YIKES". BloodyDisgusting. Archived from the original on 2009-04-30. http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/news/11200. 
  7. Case 39 - Movie Reviews & Movie Session Times | MovieFIX
  8. Mexican opening date
  9. Northern Ireland Cinema Listings
  10. 131 films coming out in the UK between now and Christmas | Den of Geek
  11. Case 39 film trailer on Filmtrailer.com
  12. RealNetworks
  13. UK Cinema Releases: 2009 | FILMdetail
  14. Home | MoviePreviewNetwork
  15. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. http://www.cinemauk.org.uk/mediafiles/_23/. Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  16. Box Office Mojo - Case 39 New Zealand Box Office
  17. Case 39 (2010) - Box Office Mojo
  18. "'Social Network' No Wallflower in Its Debut". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=2937&p=.htm. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  19. "Case 39". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/case_39/. Retrieved November 5, 2009. 
  20. metacritic.com
  21. Dread Central - Case 39 Review
  22. At the Movies (Australia): Case 39

External Links