SESSION 9 (October 12th)


YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...

So it was my anniversary today and as I am a bit of a rebel I decided to eschew the whole bouquet of flowers and jewellery thing. I gifted her something else which to my mind, is much more romantic and meaningful. I made her sit through Bran Anderson's Session 9 (2001). Now I have seen this film before but it's approaching 20 years and my memory of it is really quite poor. I was a teenager at the time and all I can recall is thinking that it wasn't particularly scary or good. Since then I have heard a number of horror fans talking it up and I just assumed it was one of those movies that I just didn't get. It happens. But the fact that it was always cited in so many people's 'top ten favourite horror movie' lists made me think that there was a chance that I had overlooked it. So when it popped up on Netflix quite recently, I made the conscious decision to check it out again.


Although I knew Session 9 was set in an abandoned mental institution and was about a group of guys removing asbestos, I remembered shockingly little of the plot going in. Which was a good thing. So the film begins with a man named Gordon, the owner of an asbestos abatement company, and his second in command Phil, being shown around a large abandoned psychiatric facility. A shit tonne of asbestos needs clearing out and as Gordon is desperate for the contract, he agrees to a timescale of one week to complete the job (even though Phil thinks it's a three week job, minimum). He is awarded the job and he ropes in three other men to help get the work done in time - Hank (a gambling addict), Mike (Law school dropout) and Jeff (Gordon's nephew). They get to work and initially it feels like a standard job (despite the creepy setting) but soon things start getting weird. Gordon begins hearing a disembodied voice within the asylum and soon his grip on reality seems to slip. Mike then discovers a series of tapes hidden in a storage room that are interviews with a woman named Mary Hobbes who suffered from dissociative (multiple) personality disorder. These tapes are recordings of interviews with a doctor who is questioning Mary and trying to find out the details of a crime she committed 20 years previously. There are nine of these sessions recorded and they get progressively more and more alarming. By the time we get to session 9, none of the lives of the crew will be the same ever again...



I've done something of a 180 on this movie. So much so that reading recent reviews of people who have just discovered this on Netflix and NOT liked it had smarted somewhat. Like teenage me, I fear they either didn't get it or had certain expectations going in. If you go into this expecting an ominous drama and not a haunted house jump fest then that will stand you in good stead. There are no jump moments here and although the oppressive setting feels as if it is tailor made for some classic scare sequences, Anderson isn't interested in those kinds of tropes. The horror here is fundamentally psychological and we're in that classic unreliable narrator territory again (feels like I've watched a few of those recently) where you aren't always sure how real what you are watching actually is. It's a film where a lot of the horror comes from the sound and not the visuals and I personally find those to be some of the most dread inducing. I may not have found Session 9 'scary' first time round but I cannot fathom why not. Maybe the themes and techniques were too subtle and adult for my teenage brain to connect with and be troubled by. On this watch, I found it to be a really chilling and unsettling experience and after just finishing it, I'm sure it's going to play on my mind for a few days. I do appreciate that it's a bit too much of a slow burn for some people but those who like their horror to be a bit less obvious and more crafted will get a lot of joy (well, that's probably the wrong word) from Session 9.


The claustrophobic feel the film creates is reinforced by the very small cast who are all great and who are given a rather fantastic script to work from. The tensions and relationships between the central group account for a good chunk of the tension and conflict and as things start to fall apart, this complicates things even further. It's a low budget film but the grittiness and handicam style all work in its favour. There's something about it that reminded me of The Shining in terms of the mood that it creates (not the visual style) and that's about as big a compliment you can give a horror in my book

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