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I usually don't write reviews on imdb. But I wanted to in this case after
reading so many
user comments for "Session 9". I think it's a shame that film audiences
become so lazy. Here is a film that displays artistry, subtlety, and
on the viewer to actually use their brain instead of be bombarded by
This truly is a horrifying movie. And so many people have problems with
it... people say
it's the "worst piece of crap" they've ever seen, but then go and
while watching "The House on Haunted Hill" or "Jeepers Creepers 2".
like this are
rare, but making a come-back. The horror is psychological, and the
on atmosphere is intimidating. I found this film to be one of the most
movies I'd seen in a long time. Another great independent horror film,
"May", is also
suffering from poor reviews by people who don't seem to really understand
watching, and react angrily to that. If you are a serious movie fan, who
likes to use your
brain and be challenged by a film, watch this movie. It's fantastic. If
you'd rather just
see what the latest computer effects wizards are dreaming up, there a
films where things pop out at you and teenagers get killed by something.
Session 9: 10/10
Seeing a film like Session 9 just reaffirms that there are truly great
still being made.
While many (including the filmmakers) will find comparisons to Don't Look Now, The Shining, and even a nod to The Changeling, Session 9 still stands on its own as a most effective, brooding experience of dread -- and that's a good thing! I found the style and tension more genuine than the grandiose The Shining, and Session 9 relies mostly on real fears and no gratuitous material to entertain. This film wants to creep you out and that's its soul purpose. No pretty young GAP models, no trendy MTV-influenced rap/metal soundtrack, no breasts, no giggle-inducing decapitation effects. If you want those, by all means go watch something else as there are plenty other films that offer that to those with short attention spans. If you want to be drawn INTO a film, a place of fear, and THINK as well, Session 9 is like a therapy session of nightmares.
The story is simple and complex at the same time, as workers removing asbestos from the massive Danvers Mental Hospital slowly unravel along with secrets from taped audio recordings of a former patient. I never saw the characters' backgrounds as "underdeveloped" as some have complained -- you don't need to know EVERYTHING about these guys and besides, more information about them would have slowed the film down even more, and its nice, brooding pace is just right as it is. And don't worry if some of the things that seem like "clues" are left unresolved, that's part of the fun. Just like I still say many of the weird "clues" in David Lynch's works like Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive are just there to be weird and draw you in, not that they actually have any direct connection to the main story.
The actual Danvers Hospital is an amazing setting as the whole structure is a character all it's own and will disturb you without it having to do much but just BE there in the film. The minimalistic soundtrack is unsettling and downright perfect (I even bought it on CD and am still trying to figure out why it attracts me so much, playing it in the background while, say, typing away something like this....).
Each actor does a fine job -- yes, even David Caruso (some of you need to get off his back!) as a guy who seems to get a bit impatient yet maintaining a sense of calm. Peter Mullan, Steven Gevedon, Josh Lucas, and Brendan Sexton III seem like real, regular blue collar guys. It's refreshing to see a film not insecure in having a mature, rough-edged cast. By giving you a sense that these guys are real (yes, even though they tend to be slacking off quite a bit in places when they're supposed to get the job done in a week), the quiet dread of the story will draw you in and you'll be absorbed completely. Of course, if you appreciate less flashy films like this, you'll agree it's damn near perfect. Oh, to those here on IMDb who criticized the scene with a jar of peanut butter left on the floor, welllll, think about this: considering the state of its consumer, do you think that whoever left it there cared where the container was disposed? Man, do you people get picky over the strangest things! Whatever may seem implausible in the story or the characters' actions really doesn't wreck the film, as it is to be appreciated much for its atmosphere and story. I didn't find the ending to be so hard to understand at all, those that had their mind set that they didn't like this film were too busy being angry to just sit back and let everything present itself quite clearly.
If this film is categorized as horror then it's one of the best I've ever seen, definitely one of the best in years. It takes a LOT to scare me, and there's one specific scene with Josh and his experience in the basement that caused a wave of tingling goosebumps all over my body. It was exhilarating to be scared that effectively by a single scene!
Folks, you can't trash this film because it doesn't give you easy explanations or allows you to have some cheap voyeuristic thrills. Many of you who didn't like Session 9 seemed to know from reading its summary that it wasn't offering slam-bang entertainment. If you like your mind to be stimulated and love being absorbed in mysterious and wondrous storytelling, Session 9 is by my definition a flawless piece of work. For anyone else, I'd just say........."What are YOU doing here....?"
Everything about this movie impressed me. The script was lean and inventive,
the direction stylish without being overblown, the acting top notch. Even
the shot-on-video cinematography looked great (with the exception of one or
two exterior shots that had a hint of video look to it, most everything else
was "filmic" and artistic).
I also appreciate any horror movie that can generate real tension and suspense from imagination and suggestion rather than relying on lame and lazy tricks that populate most horror movies (if something as limp as Urban Legends can be called a horror movie).
First rate film and I recommend to anyone who appreciates a thinking-man's horror film.
I work at a video store and when customers ask me what's a good horror movie that will actually get to them, I don't suggest any of the Freddy or Jason movies. Those are for fans, and I don't consider them to be genuinely frightening. Session 9 is, most definitely, genuinely frightening. It takes place at a mental hospital that is legend where I live. So most people know what I'm talking about when I say Danvers State Mental Hospital. It is one of the few psychologically affective movies that I've ever seen. It takes the audience on a ride through a building that seems alive to it's visitors, and forces the audience to resolve for themselves why things are happening to each character. If you want a movie that is challenging and thought-provoking, this is the one. I always tell my customers to watch this movie in the dark, but not to watch it alone. Just be aware that if there is any distraction during the movie you'll have many questions about it. I hope you enjoy it as much I as do every time I watch it!
No point in mincing words: Brad Anderson's Session 9 is the best horror movie I've seen in a long time. It's intelligent, well-written, it's completely unpredictable, it looks great (I didn't really notice until the second viewing how well the editing and the photography work together), and the soundtrack is downright creepy. Until recently only two films had managed to make me lie awake at night: Dario Argento's "Opera" and Tobe Hooper's "Texas Chain Saw Massacre". Well, now the list includes three films. Honestly, there is no excuse not to see this one, folks. Horror doesn't get any better than this.
With a brilliant premise, "Session 9" is a slow build of genuine atmospheric creepiness. More akin to Nicolas Roeg's classic "Don't Look Now" than more recent horror fare with high body counts, director Brad Anderson effectively builds tension in layers of voiceovers and (mostly subtle) foreshadowing to build to a climax of madness, with sparing use of the cheaper horror devices. Unfortunately the characters are not as fleshed out as one would have hoped, so we are left with some unanswered questions (we would have liked to have met Gordon's family and Hank's girlfriend. Why did Mike drop out of law school?). Though the subtle horrors of this film may fail to grasp the short attention spans of younger moviegoers who consider "I Know What You Did Last Scream" to be the de facto standard of the genre, this is a very cleverly executed, if imperfect, thriller.
Session 9 is the creepiest horror film I've seen in years. Brad Anderson has made a movie that is subtle, and features actors playing everyday people who not only act and talk like real people (which means none of the usual horror atrocities of going off in the dark alone, etc), but also aren't killed off one by one according to their billing in the credits. The tension builds slowly, without a cheap shock scene in sight, until it is almost unbearable. Towards the end, the plot runs out of steam and the twists are a bit anti-climatic. However, everything is so well-crafted and executed in this picture, from the writing, cinematography and acting to the use of sound and digital film, that it's a moot point. Anyone with an ounce of interest in the horror genre should rent this little known gem.
Made on a low budget, this brilliant horror film succeeds because it doesn't
fall back on any cheap gimmicks, like special effects or "shock" moments,
but instead provides an eerie, forbidding atmosphere and genuine,
three-dimensional characters. Writer-director Brad Anderson allows each of
the characters to be an individual, to develop and play off each other, so
we become genuinely interested in who these guys are, and then he allows the
horror to grow out of their personalities and the world that they inhabit.
This is a genuinely effective approach that recalls some of the more
brilliant horror films of the past (The Shining, The Exorcist) before they
were replaced by cheesy slasher movies and self-mocking teen horror
The plot in a nutshell: five men are hired to remove the asbestos from a condemned mental hospital (the movie was filmed on location at Danvers State Hospital, a place so disturbing that many of the actors reported hearing and seeing strange things during filming). As the week continues, they each begin to be affected by the place, and it's clear there's a presence of some kind there...
Each of the five main actors has a distinct style; Mullan is sullen and unsettled, Caruso is dark and intense, Sexton is hyperactive and talkative, Lucas is loud and cocky, and co-writer Gevedon is quiet and introspective. Their distinct styles allow these men to emerge as having very different personalities, and they play off each other wonderfully, with friendly banter at the beginning and as they argue and conflict with each other as the plot wears on and fear gradually sets in for each of them.
As far as the film's ending goes, let this much be said- Anderson deserves credit for willingness to follow his dark vision to the intense and unsettling end. It was probably necessary for this to be an independent film, because any major studio would have forced the filmmakers to abandon their brilliant style and add a contrived, Hollywood-style ending. Like the great horror films of yesteryear, Session 9 powerful, frightening, and most of all uncompromising.
I had read a lot on Session 9 before going to see it and had certain expectations. Although it started out slowly, the story was good. The "scary" parts were fewer and farther between than I expected and there was some mild gore at the end. The psychology and personalities were what I found most interesting. As the days passed after seeing the movie, I found myself remembering what I had thought to be insignificant things, and putting more of the subtle "creepy" things together.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Session 9 is a welcome return to the type of film whose horror relies not
cheap-thrill multi-decibel glissandos, jump-cuts and viscera (although it
has its share of that), but on strong interplay between characters, and
gradual realisation that the worst things you can imagine are not "out
there", but inside your own mind.
The characters are true to life, with Gordon, the head of the asbestos-clearing team (played by Peter Mullan, who also shone in the excellent My Name is Joe) being especially well-drawn. His stressful situation at home intrudes more and more into his working day. From the start we know he has to take this job to stay in business, and this means the team only has one week to clear the building.
Work at the asylum begins normally enough, but as the truth about what happened in the mental asylum comes slowly to light (through the archive tapes of "Session 9"), the team begins to fall apart. One worker discovers a hoard of coins and valuables, and then goes missing. Paranoia runs rampant among the remaining characters, and accusations fly. At this point, we don't know who to trust. To some extent, all the characters become possessed by the atmosphere of the asylum.
It's clear there's evil at work. However, as disturbing as the backstory is, it doesn't tie in well enough with present events to tell us for certain where this evil originates. Is it something dormant in the asylum, awakening with the team's intrusion? Or is it a potential for harm within all of us? Whichever it is, the conclusion is horrifying and effective.
In a sense, there are two stories here, both told intelligently, but the connection between them isn't quite strong enough, and you're left feeling only mildly cheated. That said, this is still a disturbing, powerful film with scenes which will stay with you for a long time.
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