You Pull One Thread, And Everyone Unravels: Session 9

Published on September 29th, 2010 in: DVD, Halloween, Horror, Movie Reviews, Movies |

By Maureen

Don’t call it a haunted house movie.

Session 9 is a movie from 2001 about a four-man Hazmat team assigned to remove asbestos from the now-defunct (but very real) Danvers State Asylum in Danvers, MA.

The common perception among all the team members is that this job should take three weeks minimum but could be completed in two weeks if the crew pushed themselves and hired an extra worker. Gordon (Peter Mullan) promises the contractor that they can complete it in a week, and each receives a bonus of $10,000. This is their first mistake.

The Danvers facility is huge and was closed abruptly in the 1980s after a series of lawsuits combined with state budget cuts forced the “deinstutionalization” movement. Relics of the lives of the former patients are strewn all about the premises, including one particularly ominous restraining wheelchair that sits at the end of the hallway formerly used to house the most delusional and psychotic patients.

session 9 chair

As the crew—which also includes Gordon’s nephew Jeff, Phil (David Caruso), Hank (Josh Lucas), and law-school dropout Mike (Stephen Gevedon) whose father worked on one of the cases that helped contribute to the closing—delve more fully into the job, they each find themselves affected by their surroundings in increasingly disturbing ways.

Session 9 gets under your skin, but not in the ways we’ve come to expect from most horror/thriller movies. There are few, if any, false scares. Instead, director Brad Anderson gets the maximum creep factor out of the setting. Danvers is a sprawling shrine to madness, complete with relics of psychiatry’s not-so-sparkling history, like “hydrotherapy” tubs with restraints on the sides, lobotomy tables, and the hospital morgue and crematorium.

Mike finds an old records room, and begins listening to a series of nine recorded sessions between a psychotherapist and patient #444 Mary Hobbes, who began to dissociate when confronted with a gruesome, traumatic memory in her past. The sessions become more detailed, and play out as a background to the action of the crew within the same walls. As Mike finally meets terrifying alter ego “Simon” during the ninth session, the fates of not only the crew, but also Gordon’s family, have been sealed.

Session 9 is very much a psychological horror film, not only because of the subject matter and setting, but because that’s how the villain terrorizes the victims. In Session 9 there are moments that imply what the audience thinks we just witnessed or saw is not so, but they come and go quickly. We are not sure by the end of the film exactly whose point of view we’ve been seeing. There’s a sort of chicken-and-egg question that presents itself at the end, but there is no clear interpretation given (the DVD is said to contain an alternate ending, but I watched this on Netflix Instant so can only speak for the ending I saw, which is the theatrical cut).

This lack of a clearly defined resolution adds to the psychological instability that the setting and plot set up. Session 9 is a quick but intense watch, and is definitely worth a glance this Halloween for anyone who wants the creepy, uneasy feeling to last beyond the action on the screen. I was definitely turning on lights and peeking around corners the rest of the night.

4 Responses to “You Pull One Thread, And Everyone Unravels: Session 9

  1. Marie:
    October 20th, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    This is singularly one of the creepiest modern horror films I’ve seen. I wish there were more of these, and fewer ‘torture porn’ movies.

    The voice at the end of Session 9 lived with me for a long, long time after seeing this film.

  2. Popshifter:
    October 20th, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Thanks for commenting Marie! I love creepy horror movies and I can’t wait to see this movie, too.


  3. X:
    April 21st, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    This movie is in my Top Three everything. It’s horrifying, gut-wrenching and emotionally devastating. The acting is so spot-on, and the horror reveals itself so slowly and surely, that it works its way into your psyche and refuses to leave. If it isn’t the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, it could very well be the second.

  4. Popshifter:
    April 21st, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Great insights! I’d like to thank Maureen for writing this review, because I’d never heard of the movie until she did.


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