Session 9 (2001)

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

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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 (67) | Top Critics (18)

A deft exercise in atmospheric horror and insanity.

Aug 12, 2002 | Full Review…

A great setting in search of a decent horror film to fill it.

Jan 3, 2002

The movie's misplaced psychological emphasis is matched by its stubble-scraping visual style.

Sep 21, 2001 | Full Review…

For a while there, the film has us going.

Sep 21, 2001 | Rating: 2.5/4

The story doesn't quite pay off, characters are underwritten and the surprise ending is contrived and unconvincing.

Sep 14, 2001 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

A spine-tingler.

Aug 27, 2001 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for Session 9

½

An ominous psychological horror that relies on an effectively creepy atmosphere, but it is a shame that the suspenseful plot lacks coherence and purpose, with many unnecessary strange moments only to create tension and an odd conclusion that is more a letdown than a nice payoff.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

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 Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

½

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 roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

Mary Hobbes(Simon): I live in the weak and the wounded... Doc.  "Fear Is A Place" Session 9 is my type of horror film. It isn't about blood or anything of that nature. It's a psychological horror film at its heart. It's effective and genuinely creepy for 90% of its runtime. You can tell that Brad Anderson was influenced by more than just the real life insane asylum this is filmed in. There are a lot of Kubrick's The Shining in this one. We have a guy who is taking a job at a place where terrible things happened. The introduction where he is walked around the asylum resembles the introduction to The Shining in many ways. This doesn't touch The Shining obviously, but this is still one of the better settings of any horror film I've ever seen. And Brad Anderson uses his setting to his advantage. There's tons of creepy shots of wheelchairs and dark corridors. There's tons of atmosphere in every single shot of the asylum. An asbestos remover and his team take on an abandoned insane asylum and the leader, Gordon, claims he can have it done in a week. When they start the job, we begin hearing sessions of a patient with her doctor because one of the workers becomes interested in it. He starts sneaking off to listen to each session. The patient is Mary Hobbes and she had multiple personality disorder. We hear her talk, but also we hear her other personalities including, The Princess and Billy. The doctor is trying to get her to remember an experience from her childhood, but her other personalities won't allow it. The most sinister of her personalities is Simon and he doesn't come out until Session 9. This has sort of a slow burn effect to it, but not as much as say a movie like House of the Devil. The film builds up tension in its first half and then slowly starts to bring on the terror. If there's a problem with the film, it is in the rather sloppy finish, but honestly I didn't really care. This film is all about the asylum and it is its best character. There aren't a whole lot of horror films out there that genuinely creep me out, but this is one of them. The atmosphere is seeping out of the screen and you can just feel the presence of everything that is in that asylum. There's some sloppy character development and plot details, but who cares. This is as glorious a horror film as the 21st century has seen when it comes to setting and tone. It may have a few problems, but its strengths more than make up for its weaknesses. From what it seems, this is a rather polarizing film. Those expecting a fast paced, bloody rampage of a horror film will definitely be disappointed. But for you fans of the genre who love the slow, meticulous films that build and build upon themselves; you are in for a treat with Session 9.

Melvin White
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

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