Session 9

Release date: August 10, 2001

Director: Brad Anderson

Cast: David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas, Peter Mullan, Brendan Sexton III, Charley Broderick and Lonnie Farmer

If you have ever been inside an abandoned warehouse or in a creepy old cemetery or have ever seen MTV's "Fear", then you know what a creeping chill one can get from just the atmosphere and the look of places like those. In Session 9, the movie is set in an abandoned mental institution, you can only imagine the terror that this setting can bring. Dirty, decadent and with the dark shadows of the occult looming in the halls, "Session 9" takes as much advantage as possible of its location for it's one of those suspense/horror/thrillers that force you to keep thinking, "It's only a movie."

The movie takes place on and around the Danvers State Mental Hospital, closen since 1985 because of budget cuts. From the outside, it doesnt look too creepy, but the inside is another story. The floors are dilapidated, graffiti is everywhere on the walls, and dust in the air. As you go deeper into the institution you soon find "therapy" rooms (torture chambers) and eventually one reaches the ward where the most serious mental patients were kept. Here, the rooms are almost pitch black and utterly silent. It is so quiet that you can even hear your own thoughts...or are they your thoughts that you hear?

The hospital has been named a historic landmark and has to be cleaned. An asbestos-removal team has been hired, led by Gordon (Peter Mullan) and Phil (David Caruso), and for an extra $10,000 bonus, they have agreed to finish the difficult task of cleaning up the entire compound in only one week. Having to hire three more guys for the job, these five men must race time to finish such an unhealthy and difficult project. However, they get a rude awakening and are totally unprepared for what awaits them.

Then there is the side story about Mary Hobbes, one of the more serious mental cases who used to be in the hospital. Everything learned about Mary comes from recorded tapes that one of the workers finds. Mary has had a very troubled past, with repressed memories of disturbing things that happened to her when she was a child. Her interviews with the psychiatrist reveal that Mary has three other personalities. One of them is "The Princess", symbolizing her innocence, while the other one is "Billy", her protector. Then there is the more unsettling voice that comes from Mary's mouth...the voice of "Simon". One can just sense the evil in Simon, but it is not until the last interview takes place, session 9, that we discover who and what this Simon really is, and by then it may be too late for the asbestos workers.

Director/writer Brad Anderson, who directed the award the winning romantic comedy Next Stop Wonderland, does a complete about face with Session 9, a creepy, psychological thriller more likely to twist heads than turn them. After displaying a tallent for witty dialogue and strong pacing with Wonderland, Anderson applies those talents to the difficult horror genre, and delivers an exciting, low-key treat.

Session 9 is a combination of a psychological thriller and a gory slasher flick. It has the same creepiness of "The Shining" and the intimate terror of "The Blair Witch Project". The film of course has a good bit of scenes where you just want to cover your eyes, but it does takes its time to build up to its climactic and epic half hour. It is scary only when it means to be scary, and I really liked it for that. The acting was very good, and I also appreciated the ambiguities the film brings to us. Was the hospital actually possessed? Was "Simon" a real entity? Or was everything in the worker's minds? It leaves you wondering about what really happened, which adds to the suspense because we don't exactly know what we are dealing with. "Session 9" is an effective horror/thriller that keeps you guessing right until the end.

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