Emily (Renee Zellweger) is a social worker who comes into contact with Lilith (Jodelle Ferland), a ten-year-old girl who has been showing signs of neglect. Lilith’s parents clearly dislike her, and Emily eventually catches the two of them shoving Lilith in their oven. Emily gains custody of Lilith, who unfortunately is not as sweet and innocent as she seems. She in fact has “the soul of a demon” and is intent on killing or corrupting everyone around her. Emily has no choice but to go to Lilith’s parents for help.
For me the most interesting thing about the film is that normal notions of control are abruptly reversed. One may feel initially bad for Lilith, who insists her parents hate her, and we see they are indeed cold, sullen, and just not right. However, by the end of the movie I’m ready for that sassbox to get her comeuppance. Emily is at the mercy of Lilith, who can do everything from dismantle an elevator to inflict a horrible death by whispering in someone’s ear. At the same time, Lilith is also a typical child—with evil powers. As she tells Emily, “If I say I want ice cream every day after school, you have to do it.” The film takes the concept of child abuse and inverts it, with Emily terrified of Lilith, even bolting her bedroom door to keep Lilith out.
It’s a somewhat original idea, though at times it seems like a composite of a dozen other horror movies. It still has a few eerie moments, the creepiest to me being a scene when Emily’s friend Doug (Bradley Cooper), targeted by Lilith, has hornets coming out of his ears, nose, mouth, and eyes.
Impressive performances abound, particularly Ferland as Lilith; she’s long past ten years old here, but she can almost pass for it. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for a demonic child movie.