Session 9 centers around a group of asbestos abatement professionals looking to make a hefty bonus on a bid if they can complete a monster job in a week. The job? Get the notorious Massachusetts Danvers State Hospital clean and ready for renovation.
The team is a group comprised of old friends Gordon, Phil and Mike (Peter Mullan, David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon respectively), new enemy Hank (Josh Lucas), and fresh meat, Jeff (Brendan Sexton III). The group dynamics are enough to make the film interesting, but throw in an atmospheric mental asylum, mystery, and some eye catching cinematography and you have the hidden horror gem, Session 9.
Phil and Hank are working through some things, mainly the fact that Hank slept with Phil’s girl and now the two are together. Gordon’s a new dad, not getting much sleep, and money’s tight meaning this job means everything. And Mike? Mike is the law school dropout son of the State’s Attorney General, with an intelligence that puts his curiosity into overdrive.
On the first day inside, the group splits up, each man taking on a different task. When Mike finds a box marked “Evidence” in an area he is working, he can’t help but look inside. He finds data pertaining to patient #444, Mary Hobbes, aged 37. The box contains 9 session tapes which include audio recordings of Mary’s interviews with a Danvers’ State Hospital doctor, photographs, and the general details of her dissociative identity disorder.
Mike, curiosity running wild, sits down and immediately starts playing the tapes. As the interview unfolds, all but one of Mary’s alternate personalities appears. All of them reference an alternate named “Simon” who is supposedly responsible for a violent, traumatic event occurring 22 years prior on Christmas in Lowell, Massachusetts.
The intensity of these interviews, and the manner in which they are slowly revealed to Mike like ghostly voices from a dark and violent past, is enough to make for a terrifying tale. But, director Brad Anderson refuses to relent there.
As the long days of stressful removal work continue, each team member begins to show wear and tear. Hank, finds a hidden stash of coins, jewelry, and assorted personal effects behind the wall of the hospital’s crematory oven. He comes back that night and, while he’s heading out with the loot, befalls a mysterious fate. The next day, when Hank fails to show for work, Phil finds out Hank may have split town for casino school in Miami. No one is particularly surprised, especially Phil who is still bitter over losing his ex-girlfriend to him.
Down a man and with the deadline for their bonus looming, the guys seemingly begin to buckle under the stress.
When confronted about his odd behavior, Gordon, the crew leader, confesses to Phil that he hasn’t been sleeping, that he hit his wife. Concerned, Phil tries to rally the crew to take on another guy. Gordon flatly refuses, a move that threatens to jeopardize the entire contract. Meanwhile, Mike, our law-school dropout continues delving through the session tapes for Mary Hobbes until finally, he arrives at the tapes for session 9.
This is when things go haywire. On the recording, Simon, Mary’s alternate, finally appears. He begins, for the first time, to engage with the interviewing doctor. Interspersed with this eerie repartee are scenes that reveal the true nature of what’s been going on with Gordon and his crew behind the walls of the Danvers State Mental Hospital.
Session 9 was a modest film that didn’t enjoy commercial success. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a terrific horror film. Rich with atmosphere, mystery, and moments of absolutely hair-raising tension, Session 9 is a film that continues to “get me” viewing after viewing.
The Climax Golden Twins provide a brilliant, nerve-twisting score. The lack of light, the filth and dilapidation of the building are like a physical manifestation or reflection of the state of the crew’s mental and physical decay. It may sound weird to call Session 9 a gorgeous film, but it is. Carefully framed and lit, each scene looks as good as any art house indie film, made all the more special by the fact that you’re watching a scary film.
Session 9 is a horror-lover’s treat. A rare, deliciously mind-bending, terrifying treat. Tasty.