|Review||Session 9 (2001)||Director||Brad Anderson|
|Writer||Brad Anderson and Stephen Gevedon|
|Cast||Peter Mullan, David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton III, Paul Guilfoyle and Larry Fassenden|
“I need you to open your eyes” – Phil
An asbestos abatement crew, headed by Gordon (Mullan), wins the bid at the abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital. Promising to deliver in one week Gordon puts a lot of strain on his crew that has some issues to begin with. Hank (Lucas) is dating Phil’s (Caruso) old girlfriend and tensions between them only escalate. Mike (Gevedon) is saddled with teaching Gordon’s rookie nephew Jeff (Sexton III) the ropes while also being quite bored with what he’s doing for a living. Gordon himself has recently become a father and the strain is taking it’s toll.
Mike starts listening to tapes from a former patient with multiple personalities, Hank and Phil irritate each other, Jeff tries his best to avoid dark places and Gordon looks like he’s becoming a bit unhinged. As the week progresses at Danvers the crew will experience real terror as dark secrets come to light.
“Intelligent” is a word often used to describe thrillers but it’s not often attached to horror films. “Session 9” is, in my opinion, an intelligent horror film that steadily builds up dread through rough relations, unsteady minds and an ominous demonic presence and connects the elements in a way so the film delivers thrills and chills in an honest way that makes sense. In fact; once the viewer starts to connect the dots the film is all the more disturbing and powerful and stands up to repeat viewing. The more times I view “Session 9” the more it gets under my skin. That, in my books, is intelligent storytelling.
The location used for the film was an actual abandoned mental hospital that was in a serious state of decay when shooting took place. It is positively reeking with dread and the creepy atmosphere does a lot for the film. The screenplay by Anderson and Gevedon makes use of the hospital’s history but concocts an absorbing tale of five guys who put themselves under a tremendous amount of strain to complete a job in a short period of time. A demonic presence inside the hospital starts influencing them and something very sinister is at work as the days slowly pass by.
“Session 9” is simply a very creepy and thought provoking horror film that gets all of it’s mileage from a sustained mood, good acting and solid dialogue and an unpredictable, and well written, story that gradually reveals layers of malevolent forces at work that culminate in a very memorable final act. Sound plays a big part in “Session 9” and the splicing together of old interview sessions with the present at Danvers Hospital reaches nearly unbearable creepy hights towards the end. There’s a bit of misdirection throughout with seemingly random visuals that do connect at the end and as a whole “Session 9” is one of the best edited horror films I’ve come across.
Mullan does a tremendous job in the lead role and creates a very memorable character in Gordon. The stress he’s under is easily relatable and he’s a very human character. Gevedon, Lucas and Sexton III all contribute heavily and deliver naturalistic performances that feel authentic. Caruso also delivers the goods with a calculated performance that keeps the viewer suspicious and somewhat aloof as to what his true intentions are. Script wise the film builds momentum very cleverly and divulges it’s plot details sparingly enough to really pack a punch in the end. Anderson’s direction is superb and the atmospheric cinematography by Uta Briesewitz really milks every ounce of dread and terror from the fantastic location. The movie was shot on HiDef video and not film so the look is a bit different but very fitting to the story. Sort of gives a documentarian look that, if anything, just adds to it’s creep factor.