johnlink ranks SESSION 9 (2001)

I saw this a couple of times back when I first got it on DVD. That was probably ’04 or ’05 or so. I’ve been thinking about SESSION 9 lately, though I couldn’t particularly say why. But it is October. It is the time for horror and psychological thrillers and suspenseful scariness. SESSION 9 seemed like a good fit.


I watched SESSION 9 (2001) on 10.2.13. It was my third viewing of the film, and first in nearly a decade.

A crew of men are tasked with cleaning the asbestos from a Massachusetts insane asylum which has long been vacant. The team is led by Gordon (Peter Mullan). He has trusty Phil (David Caruso) by his side. Phil’s ex is sleeping with crew member Hank (Josh Lucas). Gordon’s nephew Jeff (Brendan Sexton III) is the young guy, new to the crew. Mike (Stephen Gevedon) is the rock; the steady law school drop out who doesn’t takes everything as it comes.

Crazy stuff happened at this place. Torturous ‘healing’ was attempted, inmates were held in small rooms, secret areas seem to have housed ambiguous horrors. None of that is of concern, understandably, to the crew at the beginning. Gordon is feeling low about a fight he seemed to have with his wife. Phil and Hank bicker about their shared romantic partner, while Phil tries to get Hank fired. Jeff is a an eager if inexperienced buck just trying to fit in.

The characters in this are solid. What makes SESSION 9 work as a thriller is that the characters are defined long before any craziness happens. This is a film which honors ambiance over jump-scares. The camera twists down hallways showing isolated bits of furniture and empty space. This is not a film which seeks to make its viewer feel claustrophobic. Instead, the vast emptiness seems able to contain anything malicious we might dare to think on:


The title refers to a series of recorded sessions Mike discovers which contain the conversations between a psychologist and a schizophrenic patient. These serve as most of the creepy stuff for the films first couple of acts.  Nothing is rushed. All signs point to a confrontational conclusion. When that conclusion comes, it is not entirely successful, even if it is ambitious.

This is a movie, fortunately, about its characters first. The ending doesn’t ruin anything. In fact, it would be easy to see smarter people than I find the ending truly profound. It just seemed unfulfilling after all the time we spent with these guys.

The tone of this movie just works though. The acting is solid, especially from Caruso and Gevedon. This is not light fare in the sense that we aren’t bombarded with an easy horror movie. This one works at you, picks at you, challenges you (albeit in a conventional way). I really appreciate what this movie is. It is certainly worth seeking out if you haven’t yet.





~ by johnlink00 on October 4, 2013.

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