on December 31, 2003
The 2001 psychological thriller "Session 9" is, quite simply, a character study. This small, independent film generated a nice buzz and it's not difficult to see why many enjoy its creepy allure. "Session 9" is certainly not a horror classic, but it's not a bad film either. An unusual atmosphere and a handful of terrific performances boost this little chiller, but a muddled screenplay and a predictable ending place this in the realm of an above average "Night Gallery" episode.
A motley cleanup crew is hired to remove asbestos from a huge, abandonded asylum - an extraordinarily creepy building with dark tunnels, eerie metal tables and barred rooms decorated with the unsettling graffiti of past patients. The crew arrives, among them David Caruso, Peter Mullan and Josh Lucas, and each is carrying their own load of mental baggage. From failed relationships to domestic abuse, these men are haunted by the stress of messy lives. Mixed with the rigors of the job and the growing menace of the weird location, they begin to crack in small, uncomfortable ways.
I like the performances of Caruso and Mullan, two excellent actors. As longtime comrades, their characters eventually begin to distrust one another, and group stability collapses. Caruso should be applauded for continuing to do interesting work in small films such as this. For the most part, he's survived the "NYPD Blue" blunder, and his work in "Session 9" is earnest.
The location work of "Session 9" is incredible. Reportedly filmed at an abandonded hospital in Maryland, the set itself is so realistic that it could only be an actual site. It's too bad the filmmakers didn't have the screenplay to back it up. Hazy and frustrating, the story stumbles along while utilizing confusing flashbacks and a hidden tape of a patient with split personalities.
I suppose comparisons to "The Blair Witch Project" (isolated people cracking under the pressure) and "The Shining" (isolated people in a creepy building) are accurate. But "Session 9" is not as good as either one of those films. I respect director Brad Anderson for essentially carting a handful of actors to a remote spot and creating a well-acted little chiller. Undoubtedly the locale is unforgettable, but the film is disappointingly predictable.
on May 28, 2003
SESSION 9 (USA 2001): Five professional contractors - each with their own personal problems - are hired to strip asbestos from a huge, abandoned asylum where the horrific events of the past intrude on the present, invoking a murderous confrontation.
Notable as the first movie shot in the scope format using high-definition video at 24fps (transferred to 35mm film for theatrical screenings) - the same process used by George Lucas for STAR WARS EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES the following year - director Brad Anderson describes SESSION 9 as an exercise in 'creeping dread', filmed at the deserted Danvers Mental Institution in Massachusetts whose crumbling interior suggests nothing less than the hellish Marsten House of Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot'. As the audio commentary on this DVD attests, Anderson takes his visual cue from slow-burning thrillers like THE SHINING and DON'T LOOK NOW, favoring long, deliberate camera movements and wide-angle shots which transform the Institute's vast, empty spaces into an oppressive, tomb-like structure. Few Hollywood movies of recent years have used the scope format to such impressive effect. A terrific ensemble cast is headlined by David Caruso (TV's "CSI: Miami") and Scottish actor-director Peter Mullan (MY NAME IS JOE), both of whom give committed performances as men on the edge of despair, and strong support is given by Josh Lucas (THE DEEP END), Brendan Sexton III (WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE) and co-writer Steven Gevedon as the hapless co-worker who stumbles on a series of audio tapes which contain ultra-creepy psychiatric sessions involving a former patient suffering from split personality disorder.
Memorable sequences include Lucas' unscheduled late-night visit to the Institute, where he finds himself sharing the darkness with... something that shouldn't be there, and the inevitable moment when Sexton - who had earlier declared his morbid fear of the dark - finds himself trapped in the bowels of the building just as the lights begin to go out... Two endings were filmed, one of which involves a subplot that was ultimately dropped from the final assembly, but in truth, neither one of them lives up to expectations. The combination of tragedy and horror will still take many viewers by surprise, but one is left with the distinct impression that few of the participants were interested in making a REAL horror film, even if the movie ends up being one anyway, in spite of itself. Beautifully judged for the most part, and genuinely frightening in places, SESSION 9 is worth a look, despite minor reservations.
USA Films' region 1 DVD - which runs 99m 39s - letterboxes the HD24p scope frame at 2.35:1 (anamorphically enhanced), and while the film's origins as a video production are betrayed by evidence of smearing during rapid movements by the actors, picture quality is otherwise flawless. Unhappily, the disc's 2.0 surround track is a downmix of the theatrical Dolby Digital format, and while the results are entirely serviceable, it doesn't represent the soundtrack as originally intended. Extras include a number of deleted sequences, including the aforementioned subplot and 'alternative' ending, and a short documentary in which various actors and film crew pay tribute to the Danvers Institute and its gruesome history. A trailer has been included, and there are closed captions but no subtitles.
on July 31, 2002
Session Nine really left me scratching my head. To be fair, the first time I watched it the conditions were somewhat shy of optimal. I broke it up over two days and was pulled away during several key sequences by phone calls and babies crying. To make sure that I gave the film it's proper attention I locked all the doors and watched it through a second time, but was still left with most of the same questions.
To start off, the characters are the basic archetypes that inhabit thrillers such as these. This being a 'working man thriller', the roles do not include one of the most recognizable; the mad (or at least quirky) scientist. Alien made it without one, so I guess we can survive sans one here. Present are:
The business owner/corporate guy focused on saving the business/profits and damn the rest of the world. (Except, of course, his family back home usually shown through rain swept windows or in a nice soft focus memory)
The hard working, morally centered second in command who has recently lost the love of his life to...
The lazy bastard everyone loves to hate.
Also present are: The intellectual who doesn't really fit in working with the blue collar guys, but has a secret; and the rookie kid on his first job who we all know will end up dying some horrible way.
The first third of the movie is dedicate to the set up and loaded with the required exposition. I always find it amazing that security guards and DPW workers can be such a thorough source of back story and vital historical information. The head of the DPW who contracts our heroes to remove the asbestos from the soon to be remodeled asylum is conveniently married to the local historian; a slightly contrived convenience, but forgivable since the device does allow the story to move along quicker.
Looking back, I see that most of what I've stated thus far has been pretty harsh, but I did like this flick. The characters, though broadly sketched, are likeable (well, except for the lazy bastard) and the acting made me forgive most of the weaknesses of the script. What really pulled me out of the experience, even in the second viewing, was the "twist" ending.
The way the clues are laid out as to who the killer is really do point to pretty much any one of the guys working (young guy who you know will die horribly excluded, of course) and a few other folks as well. What it reminded me of, strangely enough, was a stage play my wife and I saw in Boston several years ago called Shear Madness. The plot revolves around a murder in a hair salon and at the end the audience actually votes to decide who the killer is. There are enough 'facts' pointing at each cast member that when the detective starts explaining the motives and opportunities we can believe the person we selected is guilty. Session 9 could easily subject itself to such a gimmick. (Hmm. With DVD's branching abilities...)
I don't know if this is supposed to be a puzzle movie, like the Sixth Sense, or a straight on psychological/haunted house horror like The Shining and I'm not convinced that the movie itself knows what it wants to be. If only the cast weren't so damn likeable it would be easy to pan this flick entirely, but I can't. David Caruso and company bring such believability and a wonderfully grounded nature to this movie that I really do feel compelled to watch it a third time and really 'get' it. I only hope that there really is something to get.
on March 19, 2002
A group of men, headed by Gordon (Peter Mullen) and Phil (David Caruso)are elected to perform an asbestos removal at a local abandoned insane asylum. These two men and a few other pals find themselves in a one week job that offers much more than they bargained for.
It's all about atmosphere. There are no outright or obvious gouls or ghosts to frighten you and spook you until you spill your popcorn. The asylum, with it's peeling paint, creepy security blocks , and sweaty, gritty, claustrophopic feel is what gives this movie a slow, rhythmic suspense and chill.
As the men go about their business they each encounter various forms of quiet insanity. Gordon becomes irritable toward others, almost paranoid. Phil seems to be meddling with everybody's notions of work ethic. One worker becomes obsessed with a cache of old money he finds in the deep abyss of the tunnels. Another is phobic of dark spaces.
It is the discovery of one employee that takes the movie in a very different direction. He finds himself obsessed, stealing hours from work to listen to tapes of a former deceased patient with a multiple personality disorder. Eventually it feels as if all the men in some form or another develop an unusual attachment to the asylum.
The tapes and records, once discovered and pilfered through, ignite a supernatural change in tempo that doesn't cease. Slowly, the movie becomes more frightening, more surreal, and much more suspenseful..enough to keep you bound to your armchair until the killer ending. Within the piles of documents, tapes, and discarded patient records, secrets are buried...waiting to be found.
I only gave this movie 3 stars. Performances by David Caruso and Peter Mullen were good, but not their best performances. The rest of the cast was mediocre. I loved the idea of the plot. The asylum seemed to take on a life of it's own, affecting the crew like a virus..very reminiscent of the horror flick "Event Horizon". The suspense was thrilling to say the least but the ending was a bizarre sequence of events that seemed a little too fabricated. I needed to ask out loud once or twice..."I don't get it, do you?"
I would not highly recommend this movie for purchase. I think it's a fun night's rent. I was told last night when I picked this movie off the shelf (I had never heard of it before) at my video store and asked "What's this one about?", that it was a huge favorite. Apparently "Session 9" is some cult favorite amongst the renters where I live. So, if you are daring ..go ahead and enjoy this rather unknown favorite.
on December 17, 2001
The movie follows a small group of hired absestos removers as they spend a week to remove absestos from a shut-down insane asylum, as things fall apart between the workers during the week.
The movie really is great at creeping you out and pushing your buttons. In fact, the storytelling is done so well that it builds up the tension and makes you think that there's a major surprise in store, as you're wondering which one of the abestos removers is going crazy.
Sad to say, there isn't a major surprise. The question isn't 'whodunnit?', but rather 'it can't be who I think it is, because that'd be waaayy too obvious and rather lame, but there's no other option', which makes the story rather predictable, and gets nowhere.
As long as you don't have any expectations, you'll enjoy the movie.
on October 30, 2002
About ten minutes into Session 9, I was completely prepared to love this movie. The setting, an old, empty insane asylum with its own morgue and cemetary, was creepy as hell; and the premise about a cleanup crew hired to eliminate asbestos tiles and other toxic materials had real potential. Also, the characters and the acting were above average for a modern horror flick. For these reasons, I give the movie three stars.
The problem with this movie is, it never quite delivers on what the first few minutes promises you. This asylum offers a lot of scare potential that the movie doesn't take advantage of. And I really don't mind a scary movie starting slow, but Session 9 STAYS slow. It doesn't pick up the pace until the last fifteen minutes or so...and the ending, designed to be a shocking twist, just isn't.
So, bottom line: if you're a hardcore horror fan, check this one out. It might work better for you than it did for me. Other movie viewers should probably steer clear.
on November 2, 2003
Session 9 was of an odd sort. It seemed to be leading up to something much greater than what it was. Although slow, it was to build up the characters, and it did a very good job of keeping interest during that. I thought the sessions were quite creepy, and the movie itself I found in many parts suspencful. I enjoyed the movie untill the end, pointless violence was shown, along with an not exciting twist. I thought if the climax was a bit more shocking of somesort the movie would have been pulled together better.
on April 12, 2002
I was reading about this film in the magazine from last year's "Fantasia" film festival in Montreal and it sounded intriguing. Much to my dismay this film turned out to be an unoriginal entry into the suspense/horror/thriller genre. The story is well written and the camera work/set design are pretty cool. I just found there were some loose ends, some areas of the film that should have been dealt with in more detail. This film could have been incredible but it ended up being so so.
on March 15, 2003
I rented this movie because I am from Mass originally and had never heard of Danvers state. I must say some parts are a bit confusing...But all ties together in the end..what I liked mosy about it was the DVD version has Extras, They speak with the actors who actually were very creeped out to work in this place.I think its well worth renting and giving it a whirl...The whole abandoned Mental Hospital is creepy in itself!
on March 15, 2002
When the heck was this realeased? Was I sleeping???
Plot starts spooky, sans MTV's "Fear Factor". Has a ton of potential, bulds well. Far better than most "slashers"-- but disappointing ending.
If you like chillers, rent it.
If you want SCARY??????
"The Changeling" w/ G.C. Scott. Probably the best ghost movie ever made.