Shortly after Session 9 was released there were whispers from the horror genre about it, praising Brad Anderson for his directing and character development and yet my actual watching of the feature had evaded me. 20 years down the track, the whispers have grown into a loud chorus, pushing the feature into cult status, so it would be remiss of me not to take a look and assess why the buzz has been so positive.
Firstly, its lead character Gordon Fleming is played by one of my favourite actors, Peter Mullan, who blew me away in the Ken Loach movie My Name Is Joe, so again strange that I hadn’t pushed the film to the top of my must watch list. Here, Mullan’s portrayal of Fleming is a perfect example of someone who pushes down all their emotions and feelings, a dormant volcano waiting to erupt at any given moment.
Fleming is the owner of an asbestos abatement company in Massachusetts, who takes on a job at an abandoned psychiatric hospital… never a good idea… and takes a small team with him on the promise that they could complete the task in the space of two weeks. The pressures of money drawing him to agree to a job which will stretch the team both physically and mentally.
The team is made up of Fleming; Mike (Stephen Gevedon), a law school dropout, who has a deep knowledge of the hospital and stumbles across some recorded session tapes of Mary Hobbes, a former patient at the hospital who suffered from dissociative identity disorder (Throughout the movie, Mike becomes more and more fascinated by the tapes); there’s Gordon’s nephew Jeff (Brandon Sexton III), who has a fear of dark spaces; Hank (Josh Lucas), the wildcard of the group who has a severe gambling addiction; and lastly Jeff (David Caruso, a man who has made a name for chewing up the scenery and immersing himself deeply into his characters, here is no exception).
The further the team starts to disassemble the hospital, the more layers are peeled back into the psyche each of the individuals. Loyalty and trust come into question and what initially started out as a strong unit, begins to unravel drawing out the weakest and most vulnerable traits that they hold. Were these cracks in their personality armour always on display, or is there something sinister lurking in the asylum shadows, feeding on their weaknesses?
When interviewed about filming at the Danvers Asylum, Caruso opened up about the uncomfortable feeling on set. The Asylum is a character in its own right and lends weight to the unsettled nature of the film, tapping deep into the psychological component on display. It’s a slow boiler, that exposes the darkest side of humanity and how everyone holds demons in their heart. Whilst the ambience is expertly crafted by director Anderson, it’s the cast that ground the weight of oppression into the film, and cut deep to the bone with its psychological exposition. With all these components combined, Session 9 more than proves itself and it’s no wonder that it has resonated among so many, myself included.
A cracker of a movie, which like me, if it has passed you by, I highly recommend that you pay it a visit.
- Saul Muerte