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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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James: This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20). 
<p>James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani. </p><p>Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!” </p><p>The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life. </p><p>On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them...” (Luke 9:54-55). </p><p>James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a). </p><p>This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.</p> American Catholic Blog Walk the talk. Show, don’t tell. Values are caught, not taught—all variations of one theme: A good example is essential for good parenting.

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