Review: SESSION 9 (2001) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Review: SESSION 9 (2001)


One of the creepiest psychological chillers since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1998), writer-director Brad Anderson's SESSION 9 is an astonishing follow-up to his breakthrough, refreshingly romantic comedy NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND.

Small-town asbestos-abatement contractor Gordon Fleming (Peter Mullan) is way desperate to need a job of preparing the abandoned mental asylum, the crumbling Danvers State Mental Hospital that is located in Massachusetts, on the hill for conversion into a municipal office building. He's willing to do anything, including underbid the competition and promise completion in an (impossible) one week, even though project manager Phil (David Caruso) estimates they need at least twice that long to do things properly. So Gordon, Phil and their three-man crew, including middle-class dropout Mike (co-screenwriter Stephen Gevedon), pain-in-the-neck troublemaker Hank (Josh Lucas) and Gordon's inexperienced nephew Jeff (Brendan Sexton III) proceed immediately with their job under intense pressure, tapping, stripping, bagging and doing their mighty best to ignore the creepy vibe the place exudes. Not for Mike, however, he recalled clearly the scandal that helped close the place down-- not some budget cut-- but the notorious case of Mary Hobbes, a disturbed woman whose family was nearly devastated by her tales of satanism, child abuse and infanticide before the awful allegations proved to be a case of false recovered-memory syndrome. The others are freaked out of course, in additional to their own personal demons as by the building's oppressive atmosphere. Meanwhile, Gordon is overwhelmed by the demands of new fatherhood and has had a bitter fight with his wife; Jeff is afraid of the dark and Phil and Hank are at each others' throats because Hank stole Phil's girlfriend. Then something weird has happened: Hank has disappeared. Although Phil has phoned his former girlfriend and is being told that Hank is actually heading to Miami, it's actually more than meet the eyes. Bit by bit, they begin to discover that this abandoned mental asylum has the darkest secret about to freak everybody apart.

Anderson successfully creates a series of genuinely creepy atmosphere that is perfectly accompanied with shivering piano-laden score by Climax Golden Twins. Aided with a brooding cinematography by Ute Briesewitz, the film's location setting itself; the abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital itself is so intensely frightening that guarantees to send the viewers chill to their bones.

The cast is similarly competent, with Anderson successfully captured their ongoing characterizations' high-pressure situation where they are up against all odds to meet impossible deadline. And the most spooky thing of all is indeed the one where Mike discovers a box of evidence where he puts on the tapes to listen obsessively of the nine recordings of Mary Hobbes' sessions with a staff psychiatrist are genuinely frightening.

Despite its cinematic achievement, Anderson's convoluted plot seems to be losing up its momentum when the climactic revelation proves to be more a head-scratching disappointment.

Still minor gripes aside, SESSION 9 remains highly recommended.

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