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Session 9

A movie directed by Brad Anderson

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Session 9 2001

  • Oct 25, 2002
Pros: The hospital, the actors, the story

Cons: none

The Bottom Line: Watch what you invite into your mind.

disclaimer - I may tell you more than you want to know about this movie so don’t get your panties all knotted up.

Had a friend call me one night, hadn’t heard from him in months and all I get is this cryptic message on my recorder [with no introduction] “What’s with this Session 9? Have you seen it?” Naturally my curiosity was immediately piqued, knowing they usually watch pretty bizarre movies. Being the sick twist that I am, I surfed to NetFlix and queued up. Long wait? Well, now, that usually means it’s just as twisted as I am. Relented and picked it up from Blockbuster and I’ve watched it three times now.

Session 9, the movie
Centered on an abandoned insane asylum, a hazmet crew is trying to clean the place up so the town can turn it into county/state offices. The place is a total disaster with peeling paint and asbestos tiles galore. The small crew of four men, headed by Gordon, the owner, and Phil, his assistant, have contracted to clean up and clear out in two weeks.

Gordon is pushed to the wire, he makes a side deal to rush it to one week, with a $10,000 bonus. Gordon doesn’t need further stress in his life. His business is failing, he has a new baby [one that he didn’t particularly want in the first place], he has issues.

Work progresses, tragedy visits, and the hospital wins.

Session 9, the hospital
This is no normal little hospital. Filmed on the actual grounds of Danvers State Insane Asylum, they left the interior of the hospital much as they found it. Didn’t need to gloss this puppy up for effect, enough spooks resided on their own.

It is purported that Danvers ‘invented’ and perfected the frontal lobotomy procedure. The grounds and facility are huge and, in their glory, lush. Now it is a hollow shell with peeling paint, dripping pipes, broken windows ……. and memories.

Much like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, the Danvers has a life of its own. It seeps into your soul, eats away at your psyche, and destroys your normal behavior. Danvers absorbs you and strips you of your persona.

Session 9, the actors
Gordon Fleming, the owner, was played by Peter Mullan, who just had great facial expressions. His very demeanor expressed defeat and sorrow. I believed in him, I sided with him, I watched him go insane. Director Brad Anderson wisely used Fleming’s painful eyes in several shots. As well, there were many times his face reflected such defeat, such pain.

David Caruso was Phil, the assistant. There have not been many movies where I have been impressed with Caruso’s abilities, but something struck me here. Again, wonderful eye work for expressions. Also, Anderson allowed a bit of improv during the filming and Caruso was masterful in this instance. In particular, standing on the roof of the building when he shakes his head and laughs and says “It’s gonna get ugly now”, not knowing what has gone before or will come, was chilling.

Paul Guilfoyle was the caretaker in the beginning that gives background information on the hospital and a bit of humor. Paul also co-wrote the script with Anderson.

Stephen Geyedon was curious Mike, a dropout law student that becomes obsessed with the session tapes he finds in an old library. Always disappearing from the work crew, staying after hours, he becomes entranced with the story of Mary, patient #444, and her alternate personalities Princess, Billy & Simon. He plays the tapes throughout the movie, you hear them echoing in the empty halls with eerie child laughter and sinister Simon rumblings.

Josh Lucas was Hank. He didn’t play the part, he WAS Hank. Hank wanted out of the business, he was a wheeler and a dealer, a schemer, a player. I want to know what kind of person it takes to sit in the cold dank halls, in the basement of a century old insane asylum, in your underwear, in the dark. This is a dedicated actor, I’ll give you that. His repetitive speaking of “What are you doing here?” made the small hairs on my neck come to attention.

And finally, Brendan Sexton as little Jeff. Nephew of Gordon, a mullet head youngster perhaps late teens or early twenties. He suffers from the fear of dark, some medical term that I can’t remember the spelling of, and this really isn’t the best place for him. There is no natural lighting, everything is supplied by generators, and you know what can happen with them. Generally his character gives what little humor there is in the story, but his exit from the tunnels of the hospital was just scary. But there were Oreos in the end – smile.

The Music deserves an acting mention of its own. Sometimes just a few piano keys, sometimes eerie whisperings in the background, but always a part of the hospital. Almost like another character in the movie. I will admit the closing song "Choke Chain" written & performed by Lou Barlom was quite eerie.

And the hospital deserves an award on its own.

Session 9, the awards
Just one baby for this movie, the Catalonian International Film Festival, Sitges, Spain, Won Best Director.

Session 9, the DVD
Normally I don’t play around too much with the extras on a DVD. Yeah, I know, might as well stick to VHS right? After watching the movie I wasn’t ready for it to end so I flipped through the extras. I really liked the featurette “Haunted Place”, telling the background of Danvers.

Went through the deleted scenes, which included the alternate ending. I guess they had the idea to use a homeless person living in the hospital, giving an extra edge, but decided it just wasn’t gonna work. I’m glad, I liked the idea of the movie just as it was.

The story to screen section included commentary by Anderson and Guilfoyle explaining how each scene was set up, the thoughts behind it, and methods of shooting. Pretty interesting stuff.

Finally, I relented and went for the audio commentary by director Anderson, with input by Guilfoyle, and watched the entire movie again. First I must comment that I do not understand how it would be enjoyable to watch a movie in this manner because their commentary overshadows the actors words. Since I had already watched the movie, and I was using closed captioning, I could deal with it, but is it normal practice for people to watch this way? Just asking. I would think it would be very distracting. However, doing it the way I did, after already watching the movie, it was enjoyable.

I can’t say I always went along with their interpretations though, but again, just my opinion.

Session 9, who & what it is
It is the hidden agenda in all our lives, it is the weakest part of our psyche and the strongest part of our resolve. It is our fear we hide away and our realization that we live each day on the edge. It is looking at the frailty of the mind and the strength of character. It is defeat, it is despair. It is pain and acceptance. It is looking in the mirror and seeing nothing looking back.

It is Simon, who lives in the weak and wounded.

Rated R for language and mildly violent situations. You never witness any murders, just the aftermath.


p.s. for a treat, visit Danvers web site and tour the hospital yourself. You won’t believe the size of this puppy:


Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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More Session 9 (2001 movie) reviews
review by . February 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     So according to a lot of critics, a movie like "Session 9" isn't scary; and it's sure no entertaining horror movie either. I personally disagree with any negative criticism, and I am going to come out of my shell and say it; "Session 9" is scary and rare. There are few horror films which can use intelligent scare tactics (one of which being creepiness and imagery rather than blood and gore). It shouldn't take a bold horror film to be good, but here we are. …
review by . June 13, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Lunacy, or...?
If nothing else, director/screenwriter/editor Brad Anderson possesses proven faculties for generating palpable dread and coaxing arresting performances from a gifted cast - and David Caruso, as well! For those eager to see cardboard Caruso diverge from his usual MO, this is perhaps the most ideal example available of the crime drama star's acting, and for once or twice, he's quite good! As usual, he's nonetheless overshadowed by two of his co-stars: Scotsman Peter Mullan (relatively …
review by . May 28, 2009
The Danvers Mental Hospital is a REAL, honest-to-goodness asylum in Massachusetts that pioneered and perfected the frontal lobotomy. Built in the 1850's and closed in the mid-1980's due to lack of state funding, this movie is filmed entirely(camcorder style)in the once crowded (with over 2500 patients) & still to this day, horribly sinister asylum. I must say, that the undisputed STAR OF THIS FILM is the ASYLUM, itself. The cast does a better than average job in delivering real characters, however... …
review by . November 27, 2008
Session 9
Actually only 3 1/2 stars, but I'm giving the benefit of the doubt. Fifteen years ago, the Psychiatric Hospital on the hill was closed and 2400 patients transferred or let loose. Now it is time to clean up the building, and Gordon Fleming barely manages to get the bid, promising almost impossibly quick results in order to save his business. Gordon and his friend Phil hire extra men to get the job done, including Hank, who is dating Phil's ex-girlfriend and does not mince words with Phil about it. …
review by . March 22, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
The Danvers Mental Hospital is a REAL, honest-to-goodness asylum in Massachusetts that pioneered and perfected the frontal lobotomy. Built in the 1850's and closed in the mid-1980's due to lack of state funding, this movie is filmed entirely(camcorder style)in the once crowded (with over 2500 patients) & still to this day, horribly sinister asylum. I must say, that the undisputed STAR OF THIS FILM is the ASYLUM, itself. The cast does a better than average job in delivering real characters, however... …
review by . September 25, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
There are only a few films which I consider very good, but which have disturbed me on such a level that I never want to see them again. "Session 9" has been added to that short list.     Bear in mind that this means I consider "Session 9" to be a very effective, skillfully-made movie; perhaps one of the best horror films (in the classic sense) I've seen in some time. Far more genuinely frightening than "The Ring" or "The Blair Witch Project," while avoiding the "hipness" of the …
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About this movie


Few things are more sure-fire creepy than huge abandoned buildings, andSession 9has one of the eeriest buildings you've ever seen. A hazardous-materials-cleanup company has been hired to eliminate asbestos tiles and other toxic material from a gigantic mental hospital that had been shut down in the 1980s. But as one member of the team starts to nose into old files in the office, he uncovers a series of tape recordings of psychiatric sessions--nine of them--related to a notorious sexual abuse case. Soon, toxic materials and dark spirits start to merge. LikeThe Blair Witch Project(and most horror movies, really),Session 9is longer on atmosphere and dream logic than story--but the atmosphere is effectively unsettling. A strong cast (including Peter Mullan, David Caruso, and Brendan Sexton III) do an effective job of slowly cracking under stress and evil influences.--Bret Fetzer

Starring David Caruso, Steven Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas
Directed by Brad Anderson
Writers:  Brad Anderson, Steven Gevedon
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Director: Brad Anderson
Genre: Horror
Release Date: August 10, 2001
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Stephen Gevedon, Brad Anderson
DVD Release Date: February 26, 2002
Runtime: 1hr 40min
Studio: USA Films, Scout Productions, Universal Studios
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"Session 9 2001"
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