Published on August 2nd, 2015 | by Clint Davis

Session 9 [2001]

Session 9 [2001] Clint Davis

Summary: This psychological thriller borrows its feeling of isolation from The Shining but ends up a bit confusing at the end. Good to see David Caruso not playing a cop for once!



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R  |  100 min.

Director: Brad Anderson  |  Screenplay: Brad Anderson, Stephen Gevedon

Starring: Peter Mullan, David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon

Studio: USA Films

David Caruso doesn’t drop any one-liners or throw on a pair of shades in this claustrophobic flick.

For decades, horror pictures have been scaring audiences with visions of monsters, mutants, and serial killers.  That’s all well and good but after years of watching law firm commercials, we know the real threat is mesothelioma.

Enter Session 9.

This 2001 chiller has to go down as the only movie in horror history to make asbestos its primary source of terror.  We follow a blue collar gang of Massachusetts asbestos cleaners onto their next job…which just happens to be a long-abandoned mental hospital.

The film’s hospital setting becomes a character of its own.

The film’s cast is relatively small and by the end of it, this massive hospital is a character all its own.  When watching Session 9, you’ll no doubt be reminded of The Shining, especially when director Brad Anderson gives us sweeping overhead views of the facility’s sprawling campus.  Its setting is far from the only touchstone this picture shares with Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic.

Like that film, Session 9 is also a foray into mental (in)stability, especially among people under serious pressure.  At the plot’s center is team leader Gordon (Peter Mullan) whose tense situation at home has him spread too thin, making him a liability on the job.  He works alongside his trusted partner Phil (David Caruso – not playing a cop for once!), the brainy but underachieving Mike (Stephen Gevedon), loose cannon Hank (Josh Lucas), and nephew Jeff (Brendon Sexton III) who no doubt got the job on nepotism alone.

Mike threatens to give Josh a lobotomy as tensions run high among the group.

Once these high-strung men have spent a few long days clearing the hospital’s hazardous air, tensions run high and some mental fissures begin to show amongst the group.  What begins as a quick, high-paying job rapidly turns into a nightmare.

Session 9 features some fine performances from its two leads, with Caruso’s standing out–especially after we’ve become accustomed to him spitting ridiculous one-liners while wearing Oakleys.  Mullan is also effective, shouldering the film’s most difficult role as he slowly descends into madness.  There are also some genuinely creepy images in this movie, although most of the action takes place in daylight.

Peter Mullan is effective as Gordon, the film’s shaky lead.

What left me feeling flat about Session 9 was its final act, which I found confusing.  If you take the movie’s ending reveal literally it makes very little sense (does Simon hop from person to person like a shoulder devil?), and the movie throws about 20 red herrings at its viewers, which gets old.  Once the film is over, you’ll likely find yourself asking, ‘What did that side plot have to do with anything?!’

I wouldn’t call Session 9 a masterpiece of psychological cinema but it deserves points for its unflinching plot and minimalist style.  The film’s chills don’t jump out and hit you over the head with a hammer but rather fester slowly until its bloody conclusion is played out.

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About the Author

Clint Davis is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based journalist who dropped out of film school to write news! Email him at TheClintDavis@gmail.com.

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