A Spooky Session
Release Date: August 10, 2001
Genre: Horror/Psychological Thriller
Runtime: 99 minutes
Distributor: USA Films
Director: Brad Anderson
Executive Producer: John Sloss
Writer: Brad Anderson & Stephen Gevedon
Address Comments To:Scott Greenstein, Chairman
9333 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
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Written and directed by Brad Anderson, the story focuses on five men removing asbestos and other hazardous materials from a huge, rambling mental hospital abandoned in 1985. Shot at the historic, abandoned Danvers Mental Hospital near Boston, the movie hints not only that Gordon, the boss of the group, is very upset about something, but also that Phil, Gordon’s longtime associate, is increasingly resentful toward and irritated by his fellow co-workers. Phil’s also increasingly worried that Gordon is losing his concentration, which will affect the $10,000 bonus they get if they finish in one week. Rounding out the group is: Mike, a would-be attorney who starts listening to scary interview sessions with one of the psychotic patients who used to inhabit the hospital; Hank, a cocky lothario who stole Phil’s girlfriend and who finds some valuable old coins hidden away in the building; and, Jeff, Gordon’s inexperienced, rock-and-rolling young nephew who’s afraid of the dark.
When Hank goes back to the ominous building one night to retrieve his coins, he sees a shadowy figure lurking in the distance and doesn’t show up for work the next morning. This confirms Phil’s suspicion that Gordon should have hired someone else other than Hank and leads to conflict between him and Gordon. The tension mounts higher from there until the movie’s bloody ending.
Anderson builds tension and horror mostly through sound effects and shots of the hospital’s dark hallways and spooky rooms, as well as the dramatic relationships among the characters. Integral to this is Mike’s fascination with an old psychiatric case, which provides the explanation for the movie’s strange title. David Caruso, who quit TV’s NYPD BLUE in the first season to do movies, does a superb job as Phil. He finally is able to display the tremendous talent for drama he showed in his brief television stint. Peter Mullan is also terrific as Gordon.
Because of the mounting psychological tension among the characters and their ominous setting, SESSION 9 may become a classic among psychological thrillers and horror movies in the coming years. Regrettably, it succumbs to excessive, disturbing violence at the end. Ultimately, however, SESSION 9 is a treatise on the nature of evil. In a clever twist at the end, the script tells viewers that evil lurks in “the weak and the wounded.” This, of course, is what God says in the Bible, but God goes even further – he says that, since every human being has been made weak and wounded because of Adam’s sin, every human being has an evil nature. SESSION 9 doesn’t offer any solutions for this problem, but at least it suggests that a problem exists.
Until its violent ending, SESSION 9 builds tension mostly through sound effects, images of long dark corridors and spooky rooms, and the drama unfolding between the five men. Ultimately, SESSION 9 is a treatise on the nature of evil. In a clever twist at the end, the script tells viewers that evil lurks in “the weak and the wounded,” a category which includes all people. Regrettably, the movie succumbs to excessive disturbing violence at the end.