1. LittleMissBloodAndGuts
  2. Pamela

Ah, evil women; you can't live with them, you can't outfox them and tie them to a bare mattress in the root cellar to keep them as sex slaves . . . oh wait, sure you can (yelling) 'Hey, shutup down there, bitch, or I'll put the leeches on you again!.' (muffled 'mrrrmphh! mrrrmphh!') Why a list of movies about very bad girls, you ask? The reason is two-fold: This list started as a comment for my friend Shane Donnelly's new bad girls list, charmingly enough entitled, "Women Who Will Fuck Your Ass Up" (linked). I was going to add a couple of suggestions, but as I started thinking about it, there are so many movies about incorrigible females, those suggestions became too numerous for a mere comment. But I have another reason for making this list, and that is to shed doubt on the myth of women as the embodiment of good. Feminists argue that a woman would make a better US President than a man because girls are by nature, easy going, non-violent, and would not start wars. Ha! Girls are constantly hitting, slapping and kicking their boyfriends, and I immediately thought of mom's who drown their kids by driving ther family cars into lakes, female serial killers, Elizabeth Bathory, Margaret Thatcher and the Falkland Islands, Golda Meir and the Yom Kippur War, Mary I ("Bloody Mary") of England, female terrorists, and many other examples. What a foolish proposition. Those wacky feminists! Even the Chinese knew better 2000 years ago. There is an old Confucian proverb: "Kindness of woman due more to frailty of limb than goodness in heart." Or maybe it has something to do with the difference in punishment meted out to boys and girls. Boys get a whipping and then it's over and done with. They go back out to play. Girls are sent to their rooms where they resentfully brood, stew and scheme for revenge. 'Not so! Women are nurturers,' you say? Tell that to Roman Emperor Augustus, a ruler so fearful of being poisoned he would allegedly only eat figs he plucked himself from his favorite tree. Until the day Livia smeared poison directly onto the still growing fruit, that is. Movie-wise, I could mention Thelma and Louise, but that treatment would have benefited from being much darker, and the girls' sudden personality change from being characters who merely reacted without a plan, to characters who decisively chose their own fate at the end was incongruous. That movie should have had an ending like the one in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry." That comment aside, here then dear reader, is my compilation of still more movies about NAUGHTY GIRLS:

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  LittleMissBloodAndGuts's Rating My Rating
Double Indemnity 1944,  Unrated)
All About Eve 1950,  PG)
Reform School Girls 1986,  R)
Eugenie (De Sade 70)(Eugenie... the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion)(Philosophy in the Boudoir) 1970,  NC-17)
Ilsa - She Wolf of the SS 1974,  R)
Ilsa - She Wolf of the SS
This looks terrible but I have to see it, if only to see how ridiculous and exploitive it is. What could be more entertaining than sensationalized sadism about a homicidal sexual freak who made lampshades out of people? Talk about "artistic" license. There was nothing fearsome or glamorous about the real Ilse Koch. The Bitch of Buchenwald was just a pathetic murderous pervert with way too much power. Something to remember when society automatically assumes that all serial sex killers are necessarily men. Those wacky death camp Nazis. What are ya gonna do?
The Glamorized Ilsa
The Legend of Lizzie Borden 1975,  Unrated)
The Legend of Lizzie Borden
This is a reasonably accurate and well acted account of the crime. The parents are accurately portrayed. If I had had to live with them, I would have chopped them up into little pieces with an axe, too, only I would have given forty two whacks -an extra just for good measure. There is a scene reminiscent of Joan Crawford forcing Christina to eat raw meat in MOMMIE DEAREST. The patriarch insists that the family eat mutton that has gone bad and is, according to the maid, "not fit for an animal." The parents were sloppily eating it like animals, too. Liz Montgomery is in her prime and revealing quite a lot of herself for the broadcasting standards of the day in this progressive, fast moving made-for-TV movie
Medusa 1976,  Unrated)
Ilsa, the Tigress of Siberia 1977,  R)
Fatal Attraction 1980,  R)
Body Heat 1981,  R)
Fatal Attraction 1987,  R)
Presumed Innocent 1990,  R)
Eve of Destruction 1990,  R)
Poison Ivy 1992,  R)
Single White Female 1992,  R)
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle 1992,  R)
Basic Instinct 1992,  R)
Body of Evidence 1992,  R)
Species 1995,  R)
Not bad ..OK, it was pretty bad -but fun for a general consumption, alien slasher flick, but for Forest Whittaker's character's "ESP." What's next? A fairy princess with a magic sword, too? I love when he enters the train compartment where in addition to a horrid, slimy, downright obscene vagina-looking alien cocoon stuck to the wall and by purple tentacles, and a general mess of disarray, garbage, broken stuff, and rotting food in the compartment, a porter is lying dead with her throat ripped out. Forest's Character, gravely, somberly, and using his impressive ESP powers: :something bad happened here." "Something bad happened here." Gee. Really? No shit! Thanks for telling us. We MIGHT not have been able to figure that out on our own. I also dug the secret agent security guy with sunglasses and obvious earphone. That's how we know he's a secret agent security guy! I admit though, it would have required even less mental effort on my part had he been wearing the obligatory trenchcoat. And that's my beef with Hollywood. They presume we're all children. Well, most people are intellectually. But not all of us.
The Craft 1996,  R)
Devil in the Flesh 1998,  R)
Wild Things 1998,  R)
Species II 1998,  R)
Species II
Slimy aliens love to fuck.

Spoiler: the boy alien kills "Eve" by making her deep-throat him and drowning her with his super-alien goo..

A movie so ridiculous i had to give up pointing out scientific and other factual mistakes. it's also the first movie to actually make me not want sex ever again. an effect which lasted about five minutes.
American Psycho II: All American Girl 2002,  R)
May 2003,  R)
Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines 2003,  R)
Species III 2004,  R)
Single White Female 2: The Psycho 2005,  R)
The Woods 2006,  R)
The Woods
This was a pretty good supernatural thriller with some overt acknowledgment of cruel lesbianism in the tradition of La Residencia.
Devil's Diary 2007,  Unrated)
Devil's Diary

The Devil's Diary

The Devil's Diary (2007)
WRITTEN BY: John Benjamin Martin
DIRECTED BY: by Farhad Mann
FEATURING: Alexz Johnson, Miriam McDonald, Pablo Coffey, Deanna Casaluce, and Magda Apanowicz
PLOT: An accursed book can grant any desire.

The Devil's Diary is a Lifetime made for TV movie. WAIT! I hate The Lifetime Network too! Seth Macfarlane has dubbed it, "Television for idiots," and I quite agree. Why other women want to watch movies about sadness, anguish, despair, loss, tragedy, stolen babies and wife beating is beyond me. I'd much rather watch a movie about something like a demon feasting on still-beating human hearts. That's normal, right?

I almost skipped The Devil's Diary because it cops out and takes the easy route of choosing a high school setting. The whole high school /nerds versus jocks cliche has been beaten to death, and it's just not a world that I am interested in. The Devil's Diary certainly could have given its concept a more sophisticated treatment had it been set in the real world, but what can you expect for a teenage girls' movie on Lifetime? In spite of these constraints, the film is entertaining, gets right to the point and moves along at a sprightly clip. To it's credit, The Devil's Diary is Canadian and has decent production values. Thus it lacks that cheap, made for TV feel.

Two girls find a book that grants any wish they write in it. They use it to take revenge on the vicious cheerleaders at their high school. Nerds and jocks battle over the book. A pretty simple premise, but it's executed in a lively, interesting way that is fun to watch. And I admit it's satisfying to see the cheerleaders die. However there's more to it than that. One of the cheerleaders actually has some spunk, some good ideas and does pretty well with the book -for awhile.

My only question is, why can't someone who's smart find a book like this? The first thing one should do is write, "Nobody can take this book away from me or ever use it against me. Nobody even knows I have it," and proceed up the ladder from there. Of course nobody thinks of this, and thus the movie has enough material to last more than five minutes.

(I have to digress and assert that I would also add things like, "I have an unlimited IQ," "My multiple orgasms last one hour each," "The police refuse to ever arrest me," "I hold a Nobel Prize," and "Bon Jovi can never make another album." Also, "I have omnipotent power and I don't need to keep lugging this silly book around," might be a no-brainer." Why don't the screenwriters ever consult me?)

Things get really interesting when the Clergy gets involved. Who wouldn't trust a Catholic priest with a book that bestows unlimited personal power?

If you stumble across it and want some simple escapism, The Devil's Diary makes a fun watch for occult fans. It's irreverent, has some memorable images and resists the convention of including a forced, "happy ending." With Danna Casaluce, ("Alex" on Degrassi: The Next Generation) and Alexz Johnson (Final Destination, Reefer Madness.)

The Sitter 2007,  Unrated)
Bathory 2008,  R)

As the Twilight phenomenon spurs a vampire cultural craze, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in real life, 16th Century "vampire," Elizabeth Bathory, which has resulted in the production of several relatively new films. Most vampire enthusiasts should already be familiar with good ol' Liz, Hungarian Countess Erzsébet Báthory de Ecsed (1560 - 1614). She was a favored daughter of a wealthy Hunagarian family, was closely related to two Transylvanian Voivods, and gained even more affluence, influence, and clout upon her allegedly arranged marriage to Ferenc Nadasd of the poltically well-connected Hapsburg dynasty. A self-centered, self indulgent, idle rich heiress, Bathory is considered by some scholars to be the most prolific serial killer in history with her victim count frothing over the scoreboard at approximately 650 nubile, presumably virginal teenage girls.

In a nutshell, Liz raped and sexually tortured her victims, and then consumed, soaked, and aroused herself in their blood. Perceiving the hot, living, sanguine spray from struggling teenage girls' pierced jugulars to present a visceral fountain of youth, it is commonly proposed that Liz believed their life fluid was the key to eternal youth and beauty. The historical evidence however, leans more toward the likelihood that the pernicious countess was merely a sadist and pervert who, drunk with near absolute power over her subjects, enjoyed her sadistic indulgences for their own sake.

Liz Bathory was real, but her exploits have inspired a torrent of vampire lore and movies such as the 1970 Hammer production of Countess Dracula, and the 2005 Night Fangs which appeared here in the Screaming Room last Halloween. Bathory (2008) is one of two recent cinematic efforts which are presented to the public to be more or less biographies about the bloodthirsty old noblewoman. (Sadly, while they look historically authentic, both fall terribly short in the accuracy department). The second picture, entitled The Countess (2009), is a slickly filmed, German independent effort with actor William Hurt In two weeks, check the Screaming Room for a mystery/thriller about an ageless, undead Bathory rampaging in modern day Montréal, entitled, Eternal (2005).

BATHORY (2008) Czech Republic, English Language
WRITTEN BY: John Paul Chapple, Lubomir Feldek, and Juraj Jakubisko
DIRECTED BY: Juraj Jakubisko
FEATURING: Anna Friel, Karel Roden, Vincent Regan, Hans Matheson, Deana Horváthová, Franco Nero
GENRE: BIO-DRAMA with horror and thriller elements

PLOT: Fictionalized chronicle of the life, loves, and political struggles of the infamous 17th Century Hungarian Countess.

COMMENTS: BATHORY is a dreamy, odd mix of historical fact, fiction, speculation, and whimsy surrounding the life of notorious sexual serial murdress, Hungarian Countess Erzsébet Báthory de Ecsed (1560 - 1614).

At 141 minutes running time, the film is condensed from a three part TV miniseries. A Slovakian film produced in the Czech Republic about Hungarian history, with British actors, the mixed production values, uneven tone and ambiguous, confused story make for an unusual, entertaining, but disjointed viewing experience. The sets and costumes are colorful and imaginative yet in places smack of their television budget.

Relying heavily on speculation and fancy, BATHORY'S plot combines elements of mystery, thriller, historical drama, and Renaissance steampunk adventure. Part of the movie focuses on the Countess's personal life, her youth, her marriage to Hapsburg dynasty heir, Ferenc Nádasdy, and fictionalized romance with painter Merisi Caravaggio (who in real life, never traveled to Northern Hungary.) The story also surveys the politics of Bathory's dynasty, the Hapsburg empire, their battles with the Turks, and the interplay of power posturings between Bathory and her Hapsburg in-laws. This comprehensive coverage is fine for a TV miniseries, but becomes tedious and complicated in a feature-length movie, especially given the film's sojourn into fiction.

While some of the political and historical plot points in the film are accurate, others are not, and the remainder of the picture features a murky, often conflicted depiction of Countess Bathory which attempts alternate explanations for the gruesome legends about her. This aspect of the movie is deliberately ambiguous.

Bodies of mutilated teenage girls indeed pile up, girls are found captive in the dungeons of Csejte Castle, and Bathory is seen murdering a couple of servants. Conversely, it is indicated that conspirators drugged the Countess with hallucinogenic mushrooms, and her Gypsy mystic soothsayer, a secret Hapsburg confederate, had Elizabeth so brainwashed with suspicious medicinal potions and metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, that Bathory had no clear conception of reality. In other words, the filmmakers seem to be saying of her dreadful transgressions, "it wasn't her fault."

Bathory's infamous bath of blood, drawn from her victims, turns out to be an innocent aquatic suspension of scarlet herbs. Or was the herb bath just a decoy to fool spies? The film hedges as if the producers are too timid to take a firm stance, yet they raise the question of whether long established historical facts are in actuality nothing more than trumped-up charges.

The Hapsburgs are depicted as doing their best to blame a string of mutilation killings on Bathory for political reasons, while fostering exaggerated rumors about her "alleged" perversions and crimes. To make the plot even more bizarre, two Renaissance-gadget wielding, steam punk monks infiltrate Csejte Castle searching for indicting evidence against Elisabeth in hopes that the Church can capitalize on a possible prosecution and property forfeiture.

With its odd subplots, and unconventional mix of fact, speculation and whimsy, Bathory winds up being confusing and just plain weird. What the film lacks in clarity and concise presentation however, it makes up for in color and imagination, though even this cannot fully redeem it.

As my library of factual historical accounts about the notorious countess steadily expands, I yearn for a solid, cinematic portrayal or her life and crimes, one that provides some real insight into Bathory's twisted psyche and morbid libido. BATHORY regrettably, falls short of the mark.

Like The Countess (2009), BATHORY steadfastly resists indicting Elizabeth as the blood thirsty serial killer she clearly was. Minimizing her collusion with those servants who assisted her, and glossing over her murderous predisposition, Elizabeth's motives are written off as forgivable vanity based upon her outrageous excuse that she thought bathing in the blood of virgins (or was it just those aforementioned scarlet herbs?) would preserve her youth.

Worse, the film hints that perhaps no such crimes even occurred, that if she did murder, a drugged Elizabeth was not responsible for her actions, and the reports of her macabre, orgiastic frenzies were actually malicious rumors concocted by the scheming Hapsburgs. There was plenty of motive for many parties to wish for Bathory's adjudicated demise. If she were convicted of murder, Bathory's debtors would be relieved of obligation. Additionally, in the movie, the Hapsburgs plot to acquire a number of Bathory property holdings. BATHORY speculates that even King Mathias colluded in her prosecution in accordance with financial motives, and in furtherance of a political conspiracy with the Hapsburgs.

In actuality, it is an historical fact that Elizabeth had graduated from kidnapping and imprisoning peasant girls to murdering daughters of the lesser gentry. Her scandalous, nuisance behavior sparked a plethora of accusations and complaints. Elizabeth Bathory had become an embarrassment whose actions could no longer be conveniently ignored.

All historical evidence indicates that Elisabeth was an intelligent pervert and serial killer. Drunk with absolute power over her subjects, she satisfied her cravings by living out Pygmalion-esque fantasies. Bathory indulged in an orgy of licentious and violent liberties with her victims before committing acts of sexual cruelty, finally killing them slowly by piercing them with narrow stakes and sharpened rods. Bathory then hanged her still kicking victims upside down over a tub, slit their throats, and bathed and masturbated in their blood.

In contrast to the whitewashed account provided by the movie, BATHORY, I think a more likely vision of Elizabeth's reality is that she was driven to distraction at the very thought of evisceration and death. After reading The Bloody Countess: Atrocities of Erzsebet Bathory, by Valentine Penrose, and Kimberly Craft's extraordinarily well-researched, Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory,I accept the charges that she abducted, raped, sexually abused, tortured and murdered 650 teenage girls. Furthermore, I believe that she did it solely for the sexual charge. Like Peter Kürten, the infamous Vampire of Düsseldorf, Bathory's chief motivation was probably the spontaneous sexual climaxes she almost certainly experienced while committing her atrocities.

I suspect that the mere site of her blades opening the arteries of comely, naked, quivering, helpless girls sent Elizabeth into prurient convulsions.In keeping with eye witness testimony documented by Penrose describing Bathory zealously demanding that she be sexually serviced "harder! faster!" in concert with the a request for the same amplification of timber and cadence with regard to the simultaneous torture of her victims as she watched, I picture that reveling in a crimson froth of gore and abject cruelty, the depraved aristocrat surrendered to the throes of unbridled cascades of massive orgasms, so profound as to be almost obscene in their extravagance, her eyes rolling up into their sockets as she blissfully collapsed into an ecstatic, torporific stupor. Of course, I do like to indulge my explicit imagination, but given commonly accepted facts, my description is not likely much of an exaggeration. Excuse me while I blissfully light a cigarette, lean back in my chair and luxuriously exhale the smoke.

Yet while her degenerate behavior was real enough to result in the destruction of the Countess's hundreds of innocent victims, it is evidently not sufficiently compelling to inspire film producers to tell the true story of Elizabeth Bathory and her stunning transgressions. I am still awaiting a revealing and factually accurate character study of this engrossing, repellant historical figure. It should be a pensive, insightful, dramatic psychological treatment of the sort of person who would want to do such appalling things.

Bathory - international trailer
The Countess 2009,  Unrated)
Neighbor 2009,  R)
FOUR STARS for SLASHER FANS. (Three stars for everyone else.)

NEIGHBOR (2009) NEIGHBOR Director's Cut (2010) Independent
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Robert A. Masciantonio
FEATURING: America Olivo, Christian Campbell, Lauren Rooney, Pete Postiglione, Joe Aniska, Sarah McCarron, and Amy Rutledge
TAGS: twisted, gruesome, bloody, anguish, torture, slasher, serial killer,

PLOT: A resourceful, demented serial killer with a flair for fashion and drama (really now, is there any other kind?) tortures victims in modish suburban neighborhoods while raiding their refrigerators and stealing their designer clothes in this arty, unusual, cross-genre slasher yarn.

COMMENTS: Creatively lurid violence complimented by Kurt Oldman's catchy score combines with a stylish graphic novel cinematic style to make Neighbor almost seem like a neo Giallo film, (even though it has many hallmarks of a Canadian independent.)

Almost but not quite. Neighbor is an example of a movie that is almost a lot of things but fails to fully follow through on becoming any of them. "Intricately plotted" is another phrase that cannot be used to describe the effort. Despite this, I couldn't take my eyes off of Neighbor. I HAD to know where it was going and what would happen. The ending, while not what I was expecting, made a certain impression on me. I'm giving Neighbor 7 PINTS OF BLOOD even though it could have been more substantial. Slasher fans and gorehounds will think it deserves an 8. The gore is excruciating and hard to watch, yet manages a bit of tongue in cheek black humor without being campy.

More importantly, and unique to the genre, Neighbor employs in-depth character development. From the start, we take an interest in, and care about the participants. We don't get this from very many slasher films, and if we do, it's superficial; the characters are stereotypes, ala, the stock high school caricatures in the the Friday The 13th movies.

Also novel to the slasher genre is the use in Neighbor of a time and consciousness shift about a third of the way through the film which adds some depth to the otherwise overly simple plot. Had this time shift been developed into a full paradox, Neighbor might have become a thoughtfully intriguing and substantial horror movie.

Not quite flashy enough to be a leading lady, not quite seasoned enough to be a full-fledged character actress, America Olivo nevertheless carries Neighbor with a surprisingly broad range of competent facial expressions and gestures. Her character, a deranged murderess, is captivating to watch which is good, because Neighbor's chic, stylish storyline is very simple. Olivo redeems the film, yet the missed opportunity for some compelling plot twists wastes Olivo's performance.

Neighbor pans out to be not intricate enough for a classic psychological thriller, not supernatural enough to be horror, and not paradoxical enough to be a puzzler, yet it comes close to each category, and it's rather stylishly filmed, like an adaptation of a graphic novel. Best of all, despite it's modest story, Neighbor keeps us guessing.

We try in vain to discern a motive as the film follows a psychotic killer on a crime spree. Controlled, calculating, she is able to simulate sanity while on a homicidal rampage, She taunts her victims, then captures them, holds them hostage in their own homes, uses a sewing machine to alter their clothes into fashionably unique designer outfits, devours delicacies from their pantries, -and then gruesomely tortures them to death with household appliances.

Flippant use of nails-on-a-chalkboard type violence will make you wince and cover your eyes (while peaking between your fingers to see what happens.) Employing an arsenal of kitchen aids and workshop tools, Oliva's character brings us some memorable splatter scenes, such as when she taps a victim's ticker with a cask spigot and fills a wine goblet from his still beating heart.

Neighbor blurs the boundary between fantasy and reality when the lead character, a mooky guy named Don (Campbell), wavers in and out of dreams, visions, and blackouts during his torture. The fantasy sequences artfully disrupt the timing and storyline in the tradition of the old An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge plot device, leading us to wonder if we are witness to a twisted irony ala Brazil and Jacob's Ladder. Sadly, the filmmakers neglected their chance to pursue this avenue, and the story misses a golden chance to advance to the next level of becoming a mesmerizing puzzler/mystery.

With stylistic trappings of more interesting movies, Neighbor promises a lot but never quite hits the bullseye or fulfills its potential, despite being more sophisticated than most slasher yarns. While delivering excruciatingly graphic gore, it will appeal to horror and splatter fans despite its shortcomings, due to good characterization and vogue bearing. For these elements and its solid production values, I give Neighbor 7 PINTS.
Neighbor - trailer
Case 39 2010,  R)
Case 39


CASE 39 (2009)
WRITTEN BY: Ray Wright
DIRECTED BY: Christian Alvart
FEATURING: Renée Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper, Callum Keith Rennie, and Adrian Lester


PLOT: A social worker rescues a little girl from criminally insane parents who stuffed her in an oven, and learns the hard way that maybe the parents were neither criminal nor insane after all.

COMMENTS: I really enjoyed Case 39 and I think it's a good movie. I think it is one horror fans should know about, and will want to watch, but because this picture is not as original as some I have highlighted, I am going to be harsh for the sake of those more demanding viewers.

Case 39 is another entry in a long list of The Bad Seed, The Exorcist, Something Evil, The Omen, The Good Son, Orphan and Joshua, child from hell movies. I say this with no fear of spoiling the film, because I figured out that the kid in question is a righteous little bitch at the ten minute mark. I'm not usually so adept at predicting where things are going in a movie. If I figured it out, you would have too. To it's credit however, Case 39 moves right along, offers some good effects, and has a nice visual look to it. This is its salvation, because it plods through very familiar pasture.

When Little Miss Brimstone and Treacle (her character's name is Lilith [Ferland]) is shoved in an oven by her terrified parents, meddling social worker (I jest) Emily Jenkins (Zellweger) rescues her in the nick of time and subsequently adopts her. Oh gosh, is she in for a surprise.

After Emily takes her home, Lilith snoops through her private stuff, asks nosy questions, and suddenly people attached to Jenkins begin to die horribly. (Personally, the latter could be useful to me at work, and the former is no prob as I keep my stash and sex toys in a small safe, but I digress.)

Lilith is some kind of malevolent ... something or other, and like the bureaucratic customer service reps at my cell phone provider, enjoys creating as much anguish and suffering as she can, just for it's own sake, which is not much of a motive, but is a jolly good excuse to "put butts in seats," as Hollywood phrases it, for some entertaining CGI special effects.

These visual magic tricks are creatively conceived and well done in Case 39. The film itself however, is pretty formulaic and derivative. To wit: Each character hallucinates their deepest fears, then dies because of actions taken in reaction to their fright. The evil force "feeds" on kindness and benevolence (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean).

The demon can read minds, foretell the future and has supernatural powers, but can be easily killed for some reason, and yet no one has the guts to just rush up and bust it upside the head. Etcetera, etcetera. In it's favor, the individual shocker scenes in Case 39 have a reasonably fresh feel. In light of the clichés I just enumerated above, they'd better.

There are creep-outs and several moments that make your skin tingle and your flesh crawl. Not many, but some. There are also nice sets and location photography, and the overall story is relatively convincing for a mainstream horror movie. It's what we would expect from a mid-level budget, major studio production, sans the usual goofy feel of a movie like Drag Me To Hell, but Case 39 also lacks the cleverness and hard edge of an independent film like Subject Two.

Case 39 does have some fun with the warm, soft fuzzy/anger management-through-healthy-outlets, and mustn't-spank-children mentality clung to by an industry of admirably humanitarian, but dreadfully misguided nimrods who make a living perpetuating the romantic myth that all evil is the result of bad environment. These are the geniuses who recommend Ritalin for normal youthful exuberance, blame teachers for their students' poor grades, and want to send parents to jail for dishing out a little much-needed corporal punishment at home.

Satisfyingly, the tables turn in Case 39 when a hugs-and-understanding social worker tastes the challenge of raising a psychopath. (In the film's favor Jenkins is actually pretty reasonable, a requirement if we are to like her, but the profession the writer created for her was no accident; he is making a point.) Her friends turned against her, her career tarnished, her home totaled, suddenly Jenkins isn't so empathetic, smug and huggy. She wants to butcher the little miscreant.

A 27 million dollar budget, good direction, and decent acting in Case 39, make a virtue of a necessity, which in this case is a competent, but not great script. For the most part, Case 39 does not insult the viewer's intelligence, does not patronize him, nor does it rely on too many trite gimmicks (like throwing a black cat at the actors accompanied by unrealistic cat screams, or zapping the audience with sudden, loud sound effects orchestrations to accompany non-critical surprises.) There are a few gratuitous scares such as a snarling police dog suddenly banging against a window during a conversation, but one can't expect the studios to forfeit all of the trusses that they must rely on to shore up family-friendly, intellectually non-threatening, mainstream scripts.

Case 39 is well paced and fun to watch, but the resources committed to this latest offspring of evil project could have been better applied to a somewhat darker, more clever script, something along the lines of Tom Tyron's The Other (1972), or Alfred Sole's Communion (1976). When it comes down to it though, I was just glad to find something better than Killer Clowns From Outer Space, or a stupid slasher like the Halloween remakes. But then the filmmakers who produced Case 39 had to have at least minimal plot standards in order to realize a profit, because like a news media account of some judge's lenient juvenile crime ruling, we've seen this all before.

Case 39 - trailer
Siren 2011,  R)

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