‘Fear is a place’
Session 9 is a 2001 American psychological horror film directed by Brad Anderson from a screenplay written by Anderson and Stephen Gevedon. The movie stars David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas and Brendan Sexton III.
The creepy ambient soundtrack score was composed by Climax Golden Twins (Chained; The Dark Chronicles; The Mangler Reborn).
There is a growing tension within an asbestos removal crew working at an abandoned mental asylum, which is paralleled by the gradual revelation of a former patient’s disturbed past through recorded audiotapes of the patient’s hypnotherapy sessions.
The low budget film, while not a financial success, has been critically well-received—with praise, in particular, going to its atmosphere—and is now considered a minor cult film.
Session 9 was director Brad Anderson’s first horror film, after having directed two romantic comedy films. The film was inspired by a murder that took place in Boston, where Anderson grew up, in the mid-1990s, in which a man supposedly killed his wife after she accidentally burnt his dinner, then cut out her heart and lungs and put them in his backyard on a stake.
Most of the film was shot in a small section of the asylum; according to David Caruso, the rest of the building was “unsafe” for shooting. Caruso also claims the sets didn’t need to be dressed as all the props featured in the film were already there inside the building.
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“The haunting soundtrack, courtesy of the ever experimental Climax Golden Twins, consists of moody and sparse piano compositions played out over ominous, rumbling and echoic sound-scapes. Spine-tingling and utterly unsettling. Session 9 is recommended to those who like their horror restrained, sombre and very, very upsetting.” Behind the Couch
“… I can’t recall one “cheap scare” in the whole movie. In lieu of gimmicks that are so prevalent in the teen horror genre of today, Session 9 relies on the imagination of its viewers as well as its characters. Are there actually spirits of the damned still residing in the hospital? Are those shadows in the background moving? Session 9 is not concerned with giving the audience straight answers and it’s so much better for it.” Beyond Hollywood
“This is a classic slow-burn slice of cinema with some sweet Kubrick-ian camera works, nice slow camera movements that glide along taking in the Gothic views of the crumbling asylum, the way the movie plays out is slow and masterful, there’s a deliberate descent into madness that plays along to the scenes of Hank listening to the therapy sessions with Mary Hobbs, which are among the creepiest damn things you will ever hear in a movie.” McBastard’s Mausoleum
“The digital photography (and this was actually the first digital movie shot in 24fps) seems primitive now, but it strikingly mixes an unnatural rawness with a macabre beauty in a way that recalls The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, particularly in its free-roaming, almost documentary-style sequences. For all its atmosphere and understated creepiness, Session 9 wouldn’t work without its impressive ensemble. In the spirit of the film, no one attempts to steal the show, as everyone gives nicely-realized, lived-in performances.” Oh, the Horror!
“Session 9 takes too much time to get going—like The Shining, it dawdles in expository lore—and the various subplots don’t fit together as snugly as they should. But Anderson and his first-rate cast make the most of their location. The hospital seems to dictate every aspect of the production by emitting a sense of dread that creeps into the detailed soundtrack, the languid camera movements, and the disquieting performances.” The Onion AV Club
“As it blurs the line between dissociative identity disorder and demonic possession, the movie uses the cheapo look of digital videotape as an effective source for terror – long before such notions became passé.” Rolling Stone
“Session 9 successfully screws with your head, no small achievement—but the final illuminations (people have demons, a mind is a terrible thing to lose) are a poor return on nearly two hours of ear-buckling, eye-stabbing incoherence.” Slate
“Director Anderson firmly places the accent of terror on the environment itself, rather than ejector-seat scares – some images really send a shudder up the spine in a not-dissimilar way to the more effective found-footage horrors. Long, torch-lit corridors and flickering overhead lamps, creaks in the dark, and the dirty walls of the asylum’s interior all contribute to a feeling of desolation that would turn anyone insane.” Vegan Voorhees
“With lots of human drama mixed with slow-burn psychological horror (the recorded tapes just help add to the spookiness), Session 9 is certainly an off-beat and commendable effort, and you really won’t find a location that lends itself to a film much better than this one; but in the end you’ll walk away a bit unnerved but at the same time unsure of what just went on.” The Video Graveyard
Cast and characters:
David Caruso … Phil
Stephen Gevedon … Mike
Paul Guilfoyle … Bill Griggs
Josh Lucas … Hank
Peter Mullan … Gordon Fleming
Brendan Sexton III … Jeff
Charley Broderick … Security Guard (as Charles Broderick)
Lonnie Farmer … Doctor (voice)
Larry Fessenden … Craig McManus
Jurian Hughes … Mary Hobbes (voice)
Sheila Stasack … Wendy (voice)
The abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts. It has since been demolished.
Audio: Dolby Digital
Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1