Session 9 had everything that a classic psychological thriller could ask for. A great script, stunning locale, loads of scares, great actors, solid buzz, and a very able young director. What it didn't have, however, was an audience. The film, while a critical success and festival darling, had lousy distribution and didn't make a dent at the box office. So now, it is Session 9's time to find an audience on DVD, or, more succinctly, for said audience to find IT!
Session 9 is named for one tape in a group of recorded therapy sessions uncovered by a member of a HAZMAT team who are sent in to de-lead a condemned mental hospital in Massachusetts. The crew, led by Gordon (Mullan) and his foreman Phil (Caruso) are working under a very tight schedule after Gordon promises the general contractors a quick and thorough job for a $10,000.00 bonus if he gets it done in one week. Gordon has just had a baby and is desperate for the money, so, while his crew protests quietly, they can see the amount of stress their kind hearted boss is under and bit their collective lips.
Mike (co-writer Gevendon), a law-school drop-out who now works for Gordon, discovers a box of tapes and photographs of a patient named Mary Hobbes, and he is instantly drawn into her world through the recorded sessions. As Mike digs deeper into Mary's case, strange things begin to happen in the abandoned building, and in the lives of the members of Gordon's crew.
Session 9 owes more to Nicholas Roeg's excellent Don't Look Now than to conventional haunted house fare, blending elements of dark psychological horror with elements of self-perpetuated fear and paranoia explored in The Blair Witch Project, but, in my opinion, betters the two by giving us a collection of truly likeable characters who are as real as your next door neighbor, and placing them in a setting and in circumstances equally as genuine. Peter Mullan is brilliant as the down-on-his-luck Gordon, and really creates a sympathy for his character that will resonate with you long after the film's shattering climax.
USA Home Entertainment did not skimp on the details when it came to this film. In addition to the film's fantastic image transfer, it's Dolby DTS 5.1 mix is crystal clear, and every whisper, groan and creek is given the utmost attention! We are also given a great commentary with Anderson and Gevendon, a very cool (albeit short) documentary about the Danvers State Mental Hospital, a deleted scenes segment (with optional Anderson commentary) that shows just how much a film can be changed by very minor cuts and adjustments, and a host of other goodies.
Session 9 is, quite simply, one of the most effective and unsettling psychological horror films to come along in quite some time. It more than measures up to some of the best examples in the genre, and, now that it's on home video and DVD, should become the cult classic it deserves to be.
Don't waste a minute looking for this one.