Session 9

Critics Consensus

Relying more on atmosphere than gore, Session 9 is effectively creepy.

64%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 69

64%

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User Ratings: 24,353
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Movie Info

Writer/director Brad Anderson, known for whimsical romantic comedies like Next Stop, Wonderland, was inspired by the astonishing, creepy visage of an abandoned mental hospital in Danvers, MA, to make the intense psychological horror film Session 9. The film stars the redoubtable Scottish actor Peter Mullan (from Ken Loach's My Name Is Joe) as Gordon Fleming, a new father struggling to keep his asbestos removal company afloat. Desperate to bring in some money, the normally deliberate and careful Gordon gets the contract by promising that his company can clear out the creepy deserted building in a week's time. Assisted by his right-hand man, Phil (David Caruso), Gordon hires a crew and, pressed by the nearly impossible deadline, gets the hazardous work underway. But each man on the crew harbors a dangerous secret, and it's only a short time before the haunted atmosphere of the asylum -- where cruel and primitive means were used to control unstable patients -- begins to work its dark spell on them. Session 9 was one of the first feature films shot using Sony's 24P HD video, which shoots at 24 frames per second, like film, as opposed to the 30 frames per second of conventional video. The filmmakers used the same camera that George Lucas would later use to film Star Wars: Episode II. Using this technology, Anderson and director of photography Uta Briesewitz were able to produce the uniquely effective, deep-focus images in Session 9 using mostly natural light.

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Critic Reviews for Session 9

All Critics (69) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (25)

Audience Reviews for Session 9

  • Jun 09, 2016
    Session 9 proves that you don't need fancy special effects nor gore to make an effective horror film. A crew of asbestos cleaners working in an abandoned asylum began to experience paranormal activities when they discovered 9 sessions of hypnotherapy recordings. The patient has 3 personalities, only 2 were heard while the third named Simon remains a mystery. As the days progress, each crew member became more wary of their work, until the truth is revealed. It's hard to explain the film, while it is a psychological thriller, there are doubts on whether there were in fact supernatural elements or they were simply delusions form stress. Session 9 shows that sounds and light can be just as scary as a murderous maniac. Interestingly the film was shot in 24 frame per second, it worked effectively to create the realistic feeling. I can't praise this film enough, it is what psychological thrillers should aim to achieve- using our brains.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Dec 02, 2015
    A group of contractors must remove asbestos from an abandoned mental hospital, but the environs start to take their toll on the group's leader. A profoundly atmospheric film, Session 9 begins creepily but eventually devolves into a kind of slasher film. Many of the first act set-ups go nowhere special, and I was left disappointed by the ultimate resolution. Horror films that spend more time on building the scenery than developing plot and characters don't do much for me, and while it's true that there are some interesting threads of characters here, I don't see anything fully developed. Overall, this is a middling horror film that will work for those who loved the original environment horror film, Halloween.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Apr 30, 2014
    Session 9 follows a cleaning crew as they work in an abandoned mental hospital with a horrific past that seems to be coming back. The characters we followed are never meant to be viewed as humans, but rather are treated as story elements. Our characters get a fair amount of development that instead of building an emotional bond are use to create anxiety. No one in the film has an ideal life as conversations hint at their life issues. While professionally the cleaning crew are more cooperative with each other they are on bad terms on a personal angle. This direction does away with some trappings of horror movies. For starter the cheater plot point adds to understanding the relationships between the crew not becoming a revelation when nearing the climax. It also makes sense whenever characters react to the situation given their relationship and their job priorities. Another right choice is the inclusion of the backstory given to the setting. Becoming more than just the place where the story takes place. Understanding what activity occurred in the mental hospital, an overview of the kind of patients that were instituted, and how it came to be abandoned. Surrounding it setting in another reality that the characters both accept it existence and refusal to acknowledge anything supernatural. Incorporating an abundance of paranoia elements that are further reinforced with it setting. A mental hospital that said to have experimented on patients, and hearing dialogue of old therapy sessions. Allowing it to work thematically in two ways; one being the recordings are only heard therefore it's possible that the patient has a split personality or there are many patients in these therapy sessions. Building a vague bridge that connects with the possibility of greater force beyond our comprehension without distancing the story from reality. Second reason for these recording working is the amount of depth given to the backstory. There is a patient that reappears in the story and virtually all the recordings that are played are from her various sessions. We get the full picture of the victim story that adds to the debate of how much of presented to us is grounded in reality. However, the script does have it problems like mention before the characters are story tools and never actual people. The development given to them while breaking some conventions are given little personality. Characters that never show up on screen have more depth than the characters we follow. Another issue is the ending presents a theme, but not character conclusions. It just a means to an end to express an idea not so much as to tell a story that ends on all two traditional note compared to it's non traditional build up. Filmed on handheld cameras sporting a sort of pseudo-documentary feel, not dissimilar to a found footage horror. Attempting to come across as one of those old therapy sessions that was videotaped. The quality of the video is sharp, although it looks extremely unnatural. Much like one of the characters in this film, the video just seeps into you like it's possessing you. At first, the look is off-putting, but as you get further and further into the movie, you begin to accept its presence as if it's been with you the entire time. As more is slowly revealed the audience is bombarded with seemingly unrelated footage of the area that hints at a darker and more sinister truth behind the ghost stories. Brad Anderson takes his time in telling the story therefore familiarizing the audience with the unsettling hospital. Even with shadow filled room our vision is never obscured. With its twisting hallways and dark basement passages, it clearly personifies the proverbial house of the damned. Anderson does a superb job in dealing with spatial relations in the film making some rooms ominously large, while others are claustrophobic and tiny. The cast are routinely impressive, injecting some life and humour into two-dimensional characters and it's Mullan who is the standout, creating an astonishing level of intensity with little to no substance. Peter Mullan subtly suggests a growing disengagement from reality while David Caruso is a mix of hooky fun and leering creepiness. Josh Lucas handles a variety of different personalities sloppily. He's the most underwhelming of the cast. Brandon Sexton never becomes his character due to his lack of showing much range, but makes it count when it comes to the horror centered scenes being consumed by fear. Session 9 is an atmospheric horror movie that builds a tension instead of a body count. Brad Anderson slow pacing allows time for themes to materialize and let the viewer become familiar with the not so comfortable mental hospital. While the characters are never sympathetic nor are they memorable in the slightest they do breakaway from conventions. It avoids some horror film trappings in the first two acts it builds up to the climax. Ending on a final act that is more traditional and less thought out than the journey. It doesn't end as strongly as it begins, but it's a horror film that knows how to engross the viewer into its mentality.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 22, 2012
    Well paced Psychological horror film, Session 9 is one of those horror films that takes time for the plot to unwind, but when it does, the film becomes intense, suspenseful and ultimately creepy. Supernatural elements are also combined to create a unique film. With a great cast, Session 9 is a well crafted horror film that should appeal to every horror fan. I've always loved haunted hospital films, and this film certainly delivers great tension and chills. Acting wise, the cast are great in their parts. Session 9 is one of those films that takes time to build up to the great climax and it is a well constructed film that definitely is original, eerie and successfully combines two genres of horror into one film. Director Brad Anderson's direction keeps you involved and though it may be slow, you just want to find out how this supernatural, psychological horror tale will end. I'm a big fan of haunted asylum films and other similar films. Fragile was such a film, and Session 9 remind me a lot of that film. Anderson definitely knows what makes a solid horror film, and his understanding of the medium is clearly apparent in the finished film. If you're looking for a well constructed horror yarn with a good cast, then give Session 9 a shot. This film definitely is among the best supernatural horror tales and it has a very good plot to keep you interested from start to finish. Although it has a slow buildup, there are plenty of things happening on-screen to keep you involved right up to the ending.
    Alex r Super Reviewer

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