Last year I took up the unattainable goal of watching thirty-one horror films in thirty-one days during the month of October. This goal was an attempt to fill that horrible gaping hole in my film viewing repertoire. I do not watch a lot of horror films. Mainly because I don’t enjoy being scared. Although I didn’t come anywhere close to my goal, I did watch some films that I would never have watched on my own. I realized that I was purposely not seeing some really great films because I had watched other films in that same genre when I was younger and were scared out of my mind by them. (Carrie in particular really scared me. Along with Nightmare on Elm Street.) That is simply unfair of me. So for this month, I am going to try to use October as a way to learn more about horror films and to fill some more gaps in my film knowledge.
The first film I watched for this horror knowledge filler marathon was Session 9. I am making the low-budget psychological horror film hole a little bit smaller with this one. This film centers around a group of asbestos-removing workers who are assigned to an insane asylum. They must have known from the moment that they set inside that place that there was going to be some insane things go on. One man finds a group of recordings made by a psychologist treating a woman with multiple personality disorder. He sits inside the building during lunch break and after hours listening to these creepy tapes of a woman dipping in and out of different personalities. Another man chose to steal one of the bosses’ girlfriend and seems to only still have her in order to make him mad. The main boss is having issues with his wife and newborn baby at home. And the last man is just simply afraid of the dark. All of these neuroses and tensions come to a head after a couple of days in this haunted place. The man who stole the girlfriend of one of the bosses disappears without any trace. We had seen him the night before digging up old coins from the basement. But someone else was there. Who would have known that he was there? Is he dead or is he just gone? These questions are not answered until the very end. And I am pretty sure you don’t want to know what happened.
I have written about Peter Mullan, who plays the main boss in this film, before. He is able to play insanity, vulnerability, and pure evil in such quick turns that it is sometimes hard to keep up with him. He is the anchor in this story and without him, the film would have little else to recommend it. Although that seemed like a harsh comment, it truly isn’t because Peter Mullan does a great job. Every other actor plays off him in a way that makes their weak performances stronger.
Brad Anderson went on from this film to shoot the magnificent movie, the Machinist. In that film he used a digital look to perfection that he seemed to be experimenting with here. The experiments don’t always work here but when they do it creates a documentary effect that seems a little bit more true to life than other documentary style narrative films in recent past. Visible grain and natural lighting highlight the eeriness of the setting.
Session 9 seems more like an experiment than a fully fleshed out film at times. But the experiment produces more interesting results than most of the blockbuster films that come out in a given year. This alone is reason to watch the film and let the eerie setting and masterful performances wash over you.