It's a misnomer to call Case 39 a "movie." No, Case 39 has more in common with amusement park simulators like Star Tours. It simulates the experience of adopting a demonic child by slowly draining the audience's life force. Spoilers.
Case 39 was filmed in 2006, was supposed to be released in the United States in August 2008, debuted internationally August 2009, and finally makes its debut stateside in October 2010, just in time to suck up the nickels and dimes of Halloween-minded moviegoers during Hollywood's off-season. When viewed as a run-of-the-mill horror film, Case 39 is exquisitely bad. This however is no excuse as to why it wasn't released. A veritable crap smorgasbord of bad horror flicks are released every October; what are we on, Saw Meets The Harlem Globetrotters?
No, I believe Case 39 was shelved for being too experimental. You see, I firmly believe it was the filmmakers' intent to create a nationwide motion picture installation that simulates both spatially and temporally what it's like to be forced to care for a demonic child (whether or not this is a metaphor for parenthood depends on how much you like your own kids).
Case 39 has more in common with Problem Child than The Exorcist. It is however frequently funnier than Problem Child. Renee Zellweger is a hardworking social worker who doesn't have children because her mother was a hillbilly or something (Case 39 addresses this subplot for 20 seconds). She spends 95% of her time intently staring at things; the remaining 5% is spent flirting with Face from The A-Team remake. After a crazed couple try to bake their daughter Lilith (yup) in an oven, Renee adopts the moppet.
Slowly but surely, everyone around Renee starts dying thanks to creepy phone calls. The best scene is when Bradley Cooper gets pranked and imagines he's vomiting up a swarm of hornets. The lackadaisical CGI in this sequence catapults it up into the entire echelons of bee, hornet, and wasp-centric art. This scene is right up there with Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" and Nic Cage's bee hat from The Wicker Man.
But I digress. Case 39 never picks up after Face barfs the bees. The remainder is a wretched muesli of 21st century horror movie tropes. There are evil cell phone calls, evil children, and evil psychic powers. There's even an evil elevator just in time for Devil! It turns out that Lilith is a really unambitious eldritch horror who haunts well-meaning social workers and suburbanites. For a would-be anti-Christ, Lilith lacks initiative. I mean, Jesus was lecturing elders in the temple at her age.
But Case 39 fails only if you treat it like a movie. If you treat the sequence where Lilith turns Renee Zellweger into her white trash mother as part of a cogent narrative, you're doing it wrong. The experience of watching Case 39 is a simulation, a visceral metaphor for raising a crappy kid. Case 39 is slow and ponderous (109 minutes). It will make you tired. Your blood sugar will drop, and you will become irritable. The numerous "Gotcha!" moments lose their novelty immediately and grate on you. You will become lonely because no one else will be in the movie theater. You will begin to envy all your footloose friends who are seeing The Social Network. You will physically feel your cells die from languor. This movie made me want to have a vasectomy.