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Session 9

A movie directed by Brad Anderson

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When hospitals get demonic.

  • Feb 15, 2011
*** 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. If it all boils down to something, then the most I can really say for "Session 9" is that it's much, much better than what is out there in terms of horror; and that's only comparing it to the mass majority of crappy horror remakes/sequels. But what makes the movie count is its sense of style and creepy insanity. Director Brad Anderson understands that old, abandoned insane asylums will always be creepy; and he's willing to make a pretty creepy movie in a pretty creepy setting. You see, I admire that. I admire what he does with the premise, and I also admire how "Session 9" isn't the piece of crap that it could have, and should have, been. This isn't a great film, but as a modern horror film, it is magnificent. And in a strange sort of way; that's actually saying something. Brad Anderson is a talented director, and while he directed two successful films before this one, I consider "Session 9" to be his first film; or at least his first descent into what would soon be known as his career style. This film wanted to scare me and it succeeded miraculously. It's a little rough around the edges, but Anderson's little artistic touches hold the thing together nicely. It's not gory horror, and it's not out to provoke through what it shows you. It makes you think; and nearly teases you with what you cannot see. There's genius to be found in this profoundly unique little horror film, and there's much reason to see it. It's artistic horror; and often times, this is the best kind of horror. It's unpretentious, never cheesy, and always-and I mean always-gets the job done when it comes to old-fashion creepiness. They just don't make them like this anymore.

It's a well-known fact that most casual movie-goers won't want to watch a movie that stays in one place for its entire running time but heck, Brad Anderson doesn't give a rat's ass what they think. "Session 9" takes place entirely (or almost entirely) on the premises of an old, abandoned insane asylum (you know, the creepy kind). This is a good place to set a horror film, and since Anderson has talent, he's able to keep his audience entertained as long as he can get a good hook on them. He never lets go. So some guys take a job as cleaners for a particularly creepy insane asylum, and soon find that insanity is well in the air. One by one, they go crazy; and one by one, they're killed off by an unseen entity. What happens in-between the obvious and simplistic plot elements which I have just described is all crucial, and manages to piece the thing back together in the end even if it appears to have been broken down. While it's easier to follow than some think; "Session 9" actually tells a fairly decent story. It's nothing memorable in terms of plot, but Anderson's little artistic touches were more than enough to make it worthwhile; for me at least. The only real problem I have here is that some of the characters are really, really stale. But then again, others actually have significance in the film's plot, and the lack of "character" in those few unimportant characters is the only real drawback there is. Otherwise, this film is purely diabolical. You could even call it genius; but only when it wants to be. I find that oddly endearing.

I am not willing to make a strong argument when it comes to the acting; not much of it is really all that great. But none of it is bad either; which could make all the difference for some people. The actors I liked in particular were Peter Mullan, David Caruso, and of course that incredibly sneaky cameo from Larry Fessenden. Everyone else is just dust in the wind; forgettable stars in forgettable roles. I do respect a good amount of the cast members; but a perfect horror film must have good actors, good scares, good story-telling, and good direction. "Session 9" only lacks one of those things.

Some of the greatest horror films are not the ones soaked in blood. "Halloween" was not loaded with graphic depictions of Michael's murders. "The Exorcist" did not feature much gore; aside from some elements that fit in well with the plot. You see; you do not need gore to be scary. Apparently, most Hollywood directors don't take that into account. We live in a world where stuff like the American remake of "One Missed Call" can be made; but then again, we also live in a world where mini miracles such as "Session 9" can gleefully exist without much question. My favorite kind of horror is psychological horror; and this is because you don't need gore to make your movie complete if your film is in such a style. "Session 9" is indeed psychological; as it is, all-in-all, about the depths and limits of the human mind. But what makes the style work is the atmosphere that Anderson builds up, and alas "Session 9" becomes one of the creepiest horror films of the 2000's. It's not about pop-out moments, and the film does not use the element of surprise. Instead, it's about creepy voices and psychological under-tones. That is what is scary; and that is also what makes "Session 9" the effective ride that it is. You see; I can appreciate good horror, especially when it looks and feels this good. "Session 9" is a winner because it has a cool visual style and a handful of honest thrills. It grabs you, takes you for the ride, and does not intend on letting go. But then, the credits roll.

It's easy to complain that we've seen better, when it comes to psychological horror, than this little film. That's the honest truth, but this is not "The Shining"; this is "Session 9", and that's all is wants to be. I think that despite its little flaws, Anderson should like what he's done here. He seems to have been in full control of the film, and this is his vision; a scary and very creepy horror film. To make a film creepy, it needs to be ominous. "Session 9" is ominous in more ways than one; and that's what I like, and often times love, about it. How is it so hard to make a good horror film? Does it really take a genius to do this? I ask myself this whenever I see a cool little horror flick such as this one, and never get a proper answer. The closest thing I get to an answer out of the boys from Hollywood is a movie like "Saw 3D". But Anderson is a talented individual, and while I may not have loved "Session 9", I enjoyed it for what it was. This is a well-made, visually impressive horror movie that knows what scary is. Anderson may as well have helped coin the term, for the modern horror era at least. I find myself recommending this creepy little horror film since it has most likely slipped under your radar, and if you're a horror fan, that's not where it belongs. This is quality horror filmmaking, and that's a damn good reason to see it. Psychological horror reigns over gory horror. That's damn right. And that's what I admire about "Session 9".

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February 23, 2011
With out a doubt one of my favorite movies ever, love it. Great review.
February 25, 2011
More Session 9 (2001 movie) reviews
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 …
review by . October 25, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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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