SESSION 9 (2001)
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Chilling tale tells the story of a crew of hazardous material removal workers who get a contract at a long closed state hospital for the mentally ill. Each man already has his own drama, but as they continue to work strange things start to happen effecting each one. Is it the hazardous materials they work with?…have the spirits of this forgotten place come out of hiding…or is one of their number coming unglued?
Written and directed by Brad Anderson, who co-wrote with Stephen Gevedon who also plays”Mike” in the film, this is an unsettling little indie that is subtly unnerving at first and then builds towards it’s disturbing climax. Anderson gives each of his men their own personal issues to start, such as boss Gordon (Peter Mullan) having problems at home with a new baby and his wife and Phil (David Caruso) dealing with co-worker Hank (Josh Lucas) having stolen his girlfriend away. This adds tension to the small work crew before any odd occurrences begin and gives us pause as to whether the is really something supernatural going on here. There are also a series of tapes that Mike uncovers detailing the sessions between a hospital doctor and a patient with multiple personalities and a dark secret. Each tape he plays brings us closer to finding out the secret of patient Mary and tears our crew a little further apart…until the climatic session 9. There is a surprisingly violent and bloody conclusion to all this, as up till now the film has remained low key and if Anderson doesn’t quite spoon feed us all the answers, it only works to this spooky flick’s advantage. The use of the real life abandoned Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts is also a big factor in creating atmosphere as the building is almost another character in the film and Anderson knows how to use his setting to maximum effective. The low budget flick is shot well by Uta Briesewitz and has an effective score by Climax Golden Twins. Not perfect, but a solid little thriller that gets under the skin.
Anderson has a good cast to work with aside from his impressive setting. Veteran actor David Caruso is solid as Phil. He is already on edge with having to work with a man who currently sleeps with his ex-girlfriend and when things start to get weird, it only adds to an already existing tension and Caruso plays it well. Peter Mullen is also good as Gordon. Gordon has a sick newborn to deal with and the sleepless nights are taking their toll both at home and at work. When things start to happen at the hospital, it further negatively effects a man who is already unraveling. Mullen plays this slowly fragmenting man very effectively. Co-writer Gevedon is convincing as Mike, who is very interested in the hospitals past, especially the therapy sessions of the mysterious patient Mary Hobbs (voiced by Jurian Hughes). Rounding out is Josh Lucas as Hank, who is a bit of a jerk and a thorn in Phil’s side and Brendan Sexton III as Gordon’s young nephew Jeff, who is afraid of the dark. There is also a cameo in the last act by Larry Fessenden, before he became an indie flick icon.
I like this little flick. It is slow paced, but that is deliberate as it it is more of a slow burn towards it’s unnerving climax. Anderson uses his creepy real-life setting to maximum effect and keeps us guessing as to whether it is supernatural or psychological, as to why things spiral out of control for these men. Not a great movie, but a very effective one with a good cast and a great location.
3 dust masks.