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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Case 39

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

 "Case 39" (Paramount Vantage), while not family fare, is the sort of turgid, clumsy self-parody of a horror film some adults might want to watch on DVD on a cold, rainy night, if they can make up a game to go along with all the ringing phones that are meant to portend disaster.

Director Christian Alvart and screenwriter Ray Wright scoop deeply from the cliches of demon-seed-children flicks, with the misplaced Renee Zellweger as the quivering protagonist trapped behind locked doors.

Zellweger is social worker Emily Jenkins, who rescues doe-eyed 10-year-old Lilith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland), whom she believes to be an abuse victim, from her parents, Edward (Callum Keith Rennie) and Margaret (Kerry O'Malley). Mom and Dad, who have an appropriately spooky old house in Oregon, are arrested and later sent to a psychiatric hospital after they attempt to kill Lilith by shoving her into a gas oven—which, for extra effect, they light.

Emily takes temporary custody of Lilith, and things go smoothly at first, but it turns out Lilith's parents were on to something. The child is mendacious, perspicacious and a stone-cold demon-possessed killer. She can wreak havoc at long distances, always, for some reason, signaling her mayhem with phone calls. And yet she has trouble with deadbolts.

How she got the demon is never explained. How to stop her takes up the entire second hour of the film. Exorcism is never discussed, even though Lilith (wouldn't that name alone be sort of a giant clue?) has a large crucifix on her bedroom wall at home and Emily once encounters the only police officer who believes her, Detective Barron (Ian McShane), as he leaves what clearly appears to be a Catholic worship service.

Bradley Cooper as Doug, a psychiatrist, has just enough screen time to ask some penetrating questions, set off Lilith, and meet his doom with hornets.

The film contains fleeting crude language, a scene of nonsexual child abuse and brief but intense bloody violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions: Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter. 
<p>His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him." </p><p>At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan. </p><p>They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution. </p><p>They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears. </p><p>The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions. </p><p>In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators. </p><p>The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded. </p><p>In 1987, Blessed John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t have to scrub off our sin so God can love us. Instead, when we allow God’s healing love to touch us, we want to leave sin behind. Growth starts in love, not in guilt.

 
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