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CASE 39

About The Production
From THE OMEN to THE EXORCIST, from ROSEMARY'S BABY to THE DEMON SEED, from THE OTHERS to THE ORPHANAGE, terror is often illustrated around families. Many of cinema's most memorable horror stories have emerged from the tiny cracks in family relationships and the volatile emotions of anxiety, paranoia and uncertainty that hide within. Now comes a chilling story in which a woman, whose job is to save broken families, taking a leap to foster a young girl in desperate need. But Emily Jenkins is about to discover that becoming a parent overnight isn't so easy. It's a job that dredges up her deepest fears – fear of failure, fear of not understanding, and fear of completely losing control.

Those fears are unnerving enough, but there is another kind of fear that Emily's foster child Lillith unleashes into her life and the lives of those around her – a fear found only in the deepest, darkest, most forbidden corners of the subconscious imagination. It's a fear so tenacious in its grip, it can be fatal. Academy Award® winner Renee Zellweger takes on her first horror-thriller role with CASE 39, which also marks the American feature debut of gifted German director Christian Alvart. Alvart recently came to the fore in Europe with the innovative psychological thriller ANTIBODIES, the riveting tale of a serial killer whose malevolent state of mind just might be virally contagious to the police officer questioning him. Celebrated as engrossingly stylish and provocative, the film thrust Alvart into the limelight of today's fastest rising new filmmakers.

Alvart was planning to make a radical departure from horror-thrillers for his next film, but something changed his mind. Producer Kevin Misher (PUBLIC ENEMIES) sent him screenwriter Ray Wright's edge-of-your-seat screenplay for CASE 39, and he was hooked.

"At the time, I was ready to break out of this corner of doing horror movies, but when I read CASE 39, it was so much fun, I just had to do it,” explains Alvart. "It was such a great read. I went through the script in less time than the movie itself lasts. Some of the scenes that Ray wrote were so shocking; I loved that they succeeded in being surprising in new ways. He managed to take you completely out of your comfort zone, and that kind of extreme tension interests me.”

"I'm only interested in horror movies when they are about real fears that we all share, and I especially liked that CASE 39 reflects the realities and emotions that surround dysfunctional families,” Alvart says. "For me, the story is, at heart, about being a parent and how you can't really control the minds of your children. You can try, you can do your best, but you don't ever have total control. And what happens when someone like Emily does all the right things, but it simply doesn't work? What happens when someone does bad things despite all the attempts to guide them?”

Those questions compelled Alvart to take a visceral approach that emphasizes realism – until a series of events crosses the line into a harrowing supernatural zone. "I always wanted the film to have a very real, gritty feeling,” he explains.

To Alvart, realism didn't mean leaving his signature style behind. He uses intricately-constructed visual rhythms to build mystery and suspense layer by layer – to bone-chilling effect. "I like to have everything very tightly controlled in this kind of movie, so that every physical element – every prop, every color, every movement of the actors – work together to create a reality for the audience, a heightened reality that pulls them into places they didn't know they would go.”

This approach galvanized producers Steve Golin and Kevin Misher. "Christian had a terrific sense of the material,” says Misher. "When Steve Golin, Renee Zellweger and I first met with him, we all loved him. We loved his energy, his focus and his point of view. He had never made a film in English before, but his previous film ANTIBODIES spoke volumes about his talent. He has a voracious appetite for suspense. And Christian came into the room already knowing exactly what he wanted right down to the camera angles.”

With things moving ahead quickly, Alvart set about storyboarding every frame of the film, ultimately creating detailed frames of every second of the film as it existed in his mind. He knew that several of the film's most shocking scenes, such as the suspenseful oven sequence that kicks off Emily's relationship with Lillith, and the unforgettable bathroom scene in which hornets swarm Emily's psychologist friend Doug, would have to be carefully balanced. "We wanted these scenes to be very scary and disturbing, yet without going too far,” he says. "To go to the line, but stay within the confines of a psychological thriller.”

When casting, Alvart looked for actors who had chemistry between them that would create mystery, emotion, and anxiety. "For the supernatural elements of CASE 39 to work, you really need to believe in these characters,” he explains. "I needed actors who could make these strange events feel emotionally quite believable, and who could connect on a deeper level with the audience. And that's exactly what Renee Zellwegger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane and the rest of the cast were able to do.”

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