(2001) director Brad Anderson
I’m not entirely sure what it was after watching director Brad Anderson’s Vanishing on 7th Street (2010), which I didn’t really care for, that nudged me into seeing Session 9, but I did queue it up. I had thought the only other of his films that I had seen, The Machinist (2004), was better. And I guess a couple of his films were ones that I’d heard decent/interesting things about. Who knows?
Session 9 is a horror/thriller, a psychological (or is it supernatural?) film that focuses on dread and mood to be creepy, rather than shocks or scares. It’s set in an amazing location, the Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts, an old, massive, imposing decrepit mental hospital that dated back to the 19th century. The cast, which includes David Caruso, play an asbestos removal team, hired to clean up the old hospital so that it can be re-purposed and renovated. Only the place is so creepy that dread builds and you know something is going to happen. Somebody is going to go crazy or get possessed or something.
It seems that Anderson is drawn to Twilight Zone-like stories. Session 9 has some strong elements to it. There is an earnest quality to the characters and certainly the setting. Early on, I was thinking that maybe it was going to shape up to be a pretty good film. But in the end, it only reached a moderate level of success.
Not only does the story, which starts out with a level of mystery, fall into the path of the most obvious or most easily guessed of endings, the film acts out the most lame of all revelations of a mystery: showing Here! and Here Again! where this happened and that this is who did it! See? It loses whatever level of integrity it might have gained. Frankly, Anderson seems to have an interest in the kind of stories/movies that I like, but not quite the ability to make them as strong as they need to be.
The sad thing is that this amazing building, the Danvers State Hospital, the setting and inspiration for this story, a building which is the real deal, haunted by its true history which permeates its space, was torn down. In the film, it’s on the national registry, and despite the fact that it actually was a notable historic building, it was still demolished and replaced with apartments. So now, like many a presence on screen, it is a ghost itself here, captured only in film, existing beyond its existence. It’s a shame, it was a crazy, crazy building.