Session 9 (Review)

Stop reading. Go to shop. Rent this. Watch it.

Great movies get the big poster.

After the abortion that was Deep Rising I decided to seek out a movie that I knew I would enjoy, largely because I have already seen it and know I like it. I am also finishing a list of my top 10 favourite horror movies and this was the only one on the list that I hadn’t seen recently.

If you haven’t seen Session 9 and you like horror this is a no-brainer. Rent it now.

As mentioned I knew I liked the film, and I had it penciled in at around 8 on my Top 10 list. I’m not sure exactly when I first saw the film and in what circumstance, I remember that it was a solid flick and worthy of praise, but not much else.

In retrospect the fact that I couldn’t recall the ending was a massive plus, as I had to ride through on edge wondering and speculating as if it was my first viewing.

Now that I have seen this film again it has rocketed up my list into the #3 spot, this is a truly great horror film and deserves far more recognition.

Please Hollywood, have some directors watch this film and take notes, what makes Session 9 so different from the usual pap is that it is what is offscreen that provides the scares, whereas most films nowadays try to throw as much as they can at our eyeballs in the hope something looks scary enough. The key is that if you give your audience some credit and create an uneasy situation, our imaginations do the rest, and that is where Session 9 excels.

The Movie

Session 9 takes place predominantly at a long closed mental hospital, and basically follows five characters for 90% of the film. They are an asbestos removal crew who have tendered for the job of cleaning up the hospital and only got the job by undercutting their rivals and perhaps overpromising with the time frame.

It is worth taking a minute to introduce the crew, another strength of the film is that far from being a bunch of mates or kindred spirits, the five guys don’t necessarily get along at all times. Too many movies show that everyone is buddies, they’re all the same age and never argue, anyone who has worked in an office or workplace with more than a few other people knows this is rarely the case.

  • Gordon – The boss, low on cash, desperate to get the job with a new baby at home.
  • Phil – Long time friend of Gordon. Absolutely hates…
  • Hank – Goes out with Phil’s ex, delights in winding him up.
  • Mike – Smart guy who is slumming it yet regrets not taking his chance to be something better.
  • Jeff – Gordon’s nephew. Typical young dumb kid.

All are played by good actors (no Freddie Prinze Jr here!) and no-one overacts or tries to steal the show.

After the team is granted the hospital job, we take it day by day in the film, and so will I.


The clean up operation starts, as the hospital is massive and expansive, the five guys work all over the shop, sometimes in small teams, other times nearby but alone. During the lunch break they sit around and trade stories, and Mike explains why the hospital was shut down in the first place.

A radical treatment called repressed memory treatment, created false claims from patients, some involving incest, murder and even worse. Of course once these claims were proven false the lawsuits started, and these sent the hospital broke. The building is obviously deteriorating, power to the workers is a bit dodgy and they are dealing with old and fragile areas, the building itself is a key character in the film, and it is genuinely spooky.

Mike finds a box marked “Evidence” in an old storeroom, the tape reel says that the patient is named Mary Hobbes, Mike starts going through the file and listening to the recorded interviews, over the course of the film he continually goes back to listen further.

At the end of the first day the guys congratulate each other on a good start to the job and head off, for the first time we realize that Gordon has hurt his leg in some unexplained way, but he is hiding this from the others.


Hank finds some old coins circa late 1800s, he conceals this from the others hoping to take financial advantage himself at a later point.

Mike listens to further reels, Mary is being interviewed by a doctor and it is obvious that she has multiple personalities, thankfully with different voices, we can tell quickly that “Princess” is a happy personality, “Billy” seems to be logical and protective of Princess and “Simon”, though we aren’t told specifically, is bad.

Anderson masterfully continues playing the interview dialogue over montages of the 5 guys going about their business, it is genuinely disconcerting at times to hear the creepy discussions when watching people who are blissfully ignorant of the situation, doing everyday things. This happens a few times over the film and never got old for me.

After they break for the day Hank heads back alone to further investigate his find, and once he finds the source of the stash he happily goes about collecting up the coins and other valuables, unaware of anyone or anything else in his vicinity.

Without explaining the next 5 minutes this scene scared the shit out of me, there is no obvious enemy or wrongdoer, yet the rising stress level is palpable. We are now about 40 minutes into the film, the chills started for me here and rarely abated until the credits rolled.


The tension is building between the team, the deadline is approaching, and the team risks losing a large cash bonus if they fail to meet it, and Hank hasn’t shown up for work.

Even old friends like Gordon and Phil are snapping at each other, Gordon is at the end of his tether and it seems like everything is going wrong and conspiring against him.

Near the end of the day Gordon breaks down and tells Phil why he has been so on edge, the pressure created at work had caused him to snap at his wife at home, and he felt guilty. He immediately swore Phil to secrecy.

We soon find out that Gordon is actually sleeping in his van at the site, as he is too ashamed to go home.


Early in the day Phil mutters to himself “This is gonna get ugly”. How right he is.

Phil approaches Mike and tells him that Gordon needs a break, we never really know if Gordon witnesses this but he is definitely in the vicinity.

Another great scene, Jeff heads downstairs to fix the power source and runs into Hank, who is definitely not feeling himself. Seeing that Hank was apparently missing Jeff dashes off to the rest of the team to let them know he is back, but something is a little awry. Upon hearing this everyone heads off to look for Hank, and over the next few minutes they all find themselves alone, as tends to happen in horror movies.

Everything from here seems more rushed and urgent, and while I was watching I was as confused and stressed as the characters to find out what the hell was going on.

At this stage I started feeling anxious for the film to end so I could work out what was happening, I can think of no higher praise for a horror movie than this personally, something that is scary enough that you want it to end but still enjoy every minute of the unease.


The day starts with Gordon getting a cryptic CB radio call. Within minutes the happenings of the previous 80 odd minutes are fully explained, and far from a let down I found the payoff to be genuinely disturbing and above all more believable than any horror movie that I’ve seen in years, if ever.

The only spoiler free thing I can say from here is that the credits roll and you should be very satisfied. Thanks Brad Anderson!

Other thoughts

I’ve already said it but this is a great movie, Anderson realizes what is scary and then doesn’t vary his vision once through the entire film.

Everything is “tone, tone, tone”, music is left to the most minimal piano plinking, literally three or four “plinks” before stopping, leaving room for the superior use of background sound and other effects. Even the hisssss of the tape reel creates a tension of its own.

There are no “JUMP” scares, you know, the cat jumping out of the cupboard accompanied by a loud unnecessary noise that even reasonable horror movies settle for. The camera lingers for about two seconds longer than should be required, you never really know if there is a reason, if you are missing something or if something will still happen in the scene. Again this is a good thing, the scares are created by the tension in your own mind as you strive to work out what is happening.

Location, location, location. The hospital is old and run down, with some brilliant open spaces, underground areas and also confined spaces that Anderson takes advantage of, some great camerawork takes you through multiple areas at once seamlessly, to see various characters working nearby.

By the time the film ended and I took stock to think about what I had just witnessed, I realized that there was nothing cheap about the film, everything was well earned and carefully planned without shortcuts.

Above all though was the sense of realism, and you can credit the director with holding true to his goal of creating a mood and sticking with it without settling for a quick shock or a cool visual.

Final Rating – 9 / 10. Not only the best horror movie I’ve seen in years, one of the best movies period. Sometimes it isn’t what you see but what you don’t see that is scary.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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