Session 9

Wow, in a matter of weeks, two good horror movies come out. The Others by Alejandro Amenabar and Session 9 have much in common. The horror in both is more psychological than visual, but the filmmakers use the visuals to accentuate the feeling of the film. In a way, both spring from The Blair Witch Project, Session 9 even more so than the other film due to similarities in theme, narrative structure, and even some plot points. Session 9 takes place on the property of an old hospital. A work crew agrees to clean the dilapidated grounds in one week for a large sum of money. The first noticeable element is the digital film. The screen does not look as 'clean' as film, but the graininess certainly enhances the dangerous feeling of the film.

The size of the hospital, closed for over a decade, forces the crew to split up. This leaves them at times alone amidst the ominous medical instruments, walls of peeling paint, flickering lights, endless corridors, pools of unidentifiable dark liquid, and other generally dark and foreboding things. All this empty space gives the men lots of time to let their imaginations run wild. Gordon Fleming (Peter Mullen, The Claim, Ordinary Decent Criminal) is in charge of the detail. Phil (David Caruso, Proof of Life, Body Count) is his point man. Other members include Mike (Steven Gevedon, who also co-wrote the story), Hank (Josh Lucas, The Deep End, The Weight of Water) and Jeff (Brendan Sexton III, Boys Don't Cry, Muse 6), Fleming's nephew.

As the week progresses, the hard work and strange surrounding begin to manifest in the men. Hank disappears mysteriously. While cleaning an office, Mike finds the tapes of a doctor interviewing a young woman with multiple personalities. The case intrigues him so much that he begins to spend large amounts of time in listening to these tapes. The woman is repressing some childhood trauma that most of her personalities refuse to talk about. The one personality that knows the answers does is not emerging, and the other personalities are frightened of, and refuse to talk about him.

Session 9 works as a horror film because of writer/director Brad Anderson (Next Stop Wonderland, Happy Accidents) and Gevedon. It emphasizes the slow descent into madness of the crew and the increasing alienation they have to one another. No person is ever sure if what he saw was real or not. The audience is also in the dark for much of the movie. Because Anderson does not show what is really happening on screen, it lets people imagine for themselves what may be happening. Anyone would be freaked out cleaning an abandoned hospital that looked like that. As the week comes to a close, tensions are extremely high, as is the level of mistrust. Caruso, Mullen, and Gevedon are effective in their performances, Caruso especially, as he slowly crawls his way back to respectability.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated R for language and strong brief violence.

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