Case 39 starts out benign enough. A case worker for a county in oregon that may or may not exist is over worked, and she gets handed an extra case. This case swallows her attention like a handful of No-Doz, and it is the only case the film shows her working on. Her obsession starts with a visit to the home, and a conversation with the parents (done through the mother, in whispers from the father) and ends with the case worker busting down the door and heroically saving the little girl from her monster parents.
When a kid in the little girl's group therapy kills his parents with a tire iron, the case worker begins to sense there is something rotten in the state of Oregon, and not just that outhouse smell at Third and Ankeny. When the cops begin to investigate the deaths, they discover inconsistencies that back up her thinking.
As the case worker's sanity devolves, and she discovers the girl's parents may have been right all along, she has to face a horrifying decision.
I don't know why people bag so hard on horror movies. There are conventions to these things, and they are (for better or worse) mostly followed. No one seems shocked that all romantic comedies are pretty much the same, or that buddy comedies, black comedies, and pretty much anything short of Oscar season in this country smacks of formula and repetition. So, why is horror treated with such harshness?
This movie won't be winning anything come award season, but it doesn't come close to being as bad as people seem to think it is. The little girl's performance is creepy, and well, Zelwigger is there, too.
“...There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one's head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people's pain. You ought to have some apprehension that the man you see before you was once even younger than you are now and arrived at his present wretchedness by imperceptible degrees.”