Slow burning and atmospheric, Brad Anderson‘s Session 9 has aged exceptionally well since it was first released back in 2001. This is because of its strong cast, well-honed characterisation and the atmospheric location work of the chiller’s setting. It might have only cost $1 million, but Anderson and company managed to create a film which has really stood the test of time.
Session 9 follows a small group of workers as they remove asbestos from a decrepit psychiatric hospital. Cramming two weeks of work into just one week, the team are working at break-neck speed to complete the job. Pressure is running high, but the building’s dark history also seems to have an impact on the men. Confused by strange occurrences, the men slowly begin to turn on each other.
Anderson’s film is a small, contained affair – and that’s what helps build Session 9‘s wonderful atmosphere. Taking its cue from close-quarters psychological horrors like The Thing and The Shining, the film is a character study which looks at the relationships between its characters, peeling back layers so we can see their fears and their flaws. Anderson impresses through his casting. Session 9 features the curiosity-piquing combination of David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Brendan Sexton III, Josh Lucas and (co-writer) Stephen Gevedon and they all create characters who feel very real. They honestly do seem like a group of men that you would find working together on a building site – and that’s where character meets conflict.
Session 9 has a strong visual sense which comes from its unique real-world setting. Using the Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts (before it was demolished) Anderson and cinematographer Uta Briesewitz deliver some gloriously eerie visuals. This is perfectly matched by the evocative tonal score from Climax Golden Twins. These are so important it seems only fair that Danvers and the soundtrack should share equal billing with each of the actors.
An expertly crafted genre film, Session 9 might not have set the world alight on its initial release, but it manages to still impress after all these years. Brad Anderson has shown that he’s an expert at handling dark material (The Machinist) and if you’re a fan of his work, then you’ll be very interested in seeing his first steps into that shadowy realm.
Second Sight Films have outdone themselves this time. The release of Session 9 is a glorious affair. This 2-disc set is loaded (and I mean loaded with extras). Commentaries, featurettes, documentaries and interviews cover every single aspect of Session 9‘s production.
This is a stunning package for a cult movie and it helps to give the viewer an understanding of how the film was made. It’s so detailed that you’ll swear you were part of Session 9‘s production team.