Case 39 (2009) Ending Explained

Case 39 ending explained - brainless pen

Case 39 (2009) is a psychological horror film directed by Christian Alvart who is also familiar with his space-horror movie Pandorum (2009). Case 39 is well recognized for its excellent plot progression and character development like Emelie (2015) and Hush (2016). The movie is also

Case 39 Ending Explanation and Plot Details in Details

* * * Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t seen the movie yet, turn back now! * * *

Emily Jenkins works as a social worker in Oregon. Her assignment is to investigate the family of Lillith Sullivan. Because of a rift between her parents, her grades have declined in school. She was raised by Edward and Margaret Sullivan. In an effort to investigate further, Emily suspects that Lillith’s parents have been abusing her for not obeying them.

Renée Zellweger as Emily in Case 39 movie
Renée Zellweger as Emily in Case 39 movie.

A visit to Lillith’s parents is planned after she questions her about her parents. Lillith is interviewed by Emily’s boss and is too intimidated to answer his questions honestly. Lillith is visited by Emily at her school and given her home phone number. Her mother tells her to call if she is hurt or needs help.

Read more, Orphan (2009)

The next day, Emily receives a phone call from Lillith confirming her suspicion. Lillith tells Emily that her parents intend to murder her. Emily intercepts and captures Edward and Margaret with the help of Detective Mike Barron. Lillith is trapped in their oven and baked alive, in which she is incinerated.

Lilith was initially going to be sent to a children’s home, but she begs Emily to take care of her instead. In agreement with the board, Emily will take care of Lillith until a suitable foster family can be found. A boy named Diego moves in with Emily two weeks after Lillith. Emily is dealing with him as well. In the middle of the night, Diego brutally murders his parents. Emily receives a call from Detective Barron informing her that someone called Diego the night before the crime.

Emily and Lilith in movie Case 39
Emily and Lilith.

Douglas, Emily’s best friend, conducts a psychiatric evaluation of Lillith due to her suspicion of involvement in the incident. Douglas, however, is asked by Lillith what his greatest fears are during the session. Subtly, she begins to evaluate him and turn the questions around. Emily communicates Douglas’ discomfort to him and he tells her he will contact a specialist in the morning. At home, Douglas receives an odd phone call during the night. Douglas begins to scream as hornets fly out of his body, and he kills himself as a result. Douglas had previously revealed to Lillith that he was afraid of them.

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Emily becomes more suspicious of Lillith after talking to Diego and attending Douglas’ funeral. Then she visits her parents at the asylum where Edward and Margaret are being held for their attempted murder of Lillith. Margaret is suffering from hysteria and unable to see anyone. The demon-like Lillith is revealed to Emily by Edward as a far cry from being human. Taking advantage of her victims’ fears, she is capable of creating deadly hallucinations. This is what led them to try to kill her. In exchange for Emily’s kindness and goodness, Lillith will bleed her dry before moving on to her next victim.

Emily is also informed by Edward that the only way to kill Lillith is to put her to sleep. However, Lillith rarely sleeps. Margaret hallucinates that she is on fire shortly after Emily leaves the asylum, and Edward is stabbed in the eye. After attacking a fellow prisoner, he spoke to him in the voice of Lillith. Detective Barron receives an unusual phone call at home from Lilith. He prepares to help Emily. Lilith, on the other hand, makes him hallucinate Emily as he travels to her. In response to attacks by dogs, he fatally shoots himself with his shotgun.

Then she realized that her closest colleagues had been eliminated and that the rest of her cases would follow. While waiting for Lillith to fall asleep, Emily serves her tea spiked with sedatives. Emily smothers her house in gasoline and sets it ablaze while Lilith is asleep, hoping to kill her. In spite of this, Lillith escapes unharmed when she discovers Emily’s plot.

Emily and Lilith are escorted to a temporary place to stay by the police officer. However, Emily takes a different route as she follows the police cars. Drifting at high speeds and driving recklessly to scare Lillith. Emily is forced to relive a memory of her mother driving fast in a rainstorm and a truck overturning her path when she was a child. The image fades as Emily tells herself that it’s not real, leaving Lillith confused that her illusions no longer scare Emily.

Renée Zellweger in Case 39
Renée Zellweger in Case 39.

The car is driven into a lake after Emily crashes through a gate. By folding back the rear seats and drowning Lilith as the car sinks, Emily tries to lock Lilith, now in full demon form, in the trunk. Lilith grabs Emily’s leg through a hole in the tail light section of the car as she exits the car and swims away. The car continues to sink as Emily and Lilith break free. After climbing ashore, Emily watches the water to ensure she’s really gone. Emily smiles at the end of the film, relieved to have finally gotten rid of Lilith.

The main villain of the movie

Lilith Sullivan (Lily) is the case 39 demon. The role is played by Jodelle Ferland.

In the movie, the villain’s name Lilith is also a name of a legendary evil. According to Mesopotamian and Judaic mythology, Lilith means night monster and it appears in female form. Demon Lilith especially captures children and takes them to nightmares. Then the demons feed on their fear & life souls.

Also, in this movie, Lilith Sullivan is shown as a replica of the demon Lilith.

Death of Douglas in Case 39

The death scene of Doug is very straightforward to explain. But some questions arise in our Facebook group discussion which got my attention. Few members asked ‘how Lilith did it to Dough?’, ‘was there any real hornet?’, ‘as a psychiatrist why does Dough fail to protect himself?’

Well, first of all, Lilith is not a human. She had the evil power to manipulate people’s thinking which was far strong than any humanoid hypnotism. So, when Lilith met Dough then she hypnotized (or possessed) him. Later in betimes, she pushed Dough to feel ‘there are countless hornets in my body. Therefore, Dough becomes hysterical and has a heart attack which leads him to death.

Alternate ending of Case 39 (2009)

There is a deleted scene aka alternated ending of the movie Case 39 on the DVD in its special features. Here, a man jumps into the water to rescue drowning Emily & Lily from the car. The man manages to save both of them alive.

Police arrested Emily accusing attempt to murder Lily. TV channels covering the news and we notice, Margaret Sullivan watching it.

Later, Emily is sent to an asylum for raising her schizophrenia and on the other side, Lily arrives at her new foster family’s home. The movie ends here.

Did Lily die at the end?

In the alternative ending of the movie, Lily survived and starts with a new foster family but in the other ending, the answer is ambiguous. Because there were no clues that indicate that Lily survived the water and saved herself.

Official Synopsis

Idealistic social worker Emily takes help from a detective to save Lily from her abusive parents. Just as things seem to look positive, horror escalates with the dark forces surrounding her.


Original Title Case 39

Other Titles Fall 39 (Austria), Le cas 39 (Canada)

Genre Horror/ psychological

Runtime 1hr 49min

Original Language English

Directed by Christian Alvart

Written by Ray Wright

Produced by Lisa Bruce, Steve Golin, Alix Madigan, Kevin Misher

Tagline ‘Some cases should never be opened.’

Release date October 01, 2010 (USA)

Origin Country United States

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Cast of Characters

Actor/Actress Name Character Name
Renée Zellweger Emily Jenkins
Jodelle Ferland Lilith Sullivan
Ian McShane Detective Barron
Bradley Cooper Doug

Official Trailer

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