With Scream Factory’s August release of Session 9 on Blu-ray and Halloween season upon us, it was the the perfect time to revisit the 2001 psychological horror masterpiece. Leaning heavily on strong performances from Peter Mullan and David Caruso, as well as a strong script and extremely creepy setting, the film probably leaves more questions than answers. However, isn’t a not-so-gentle mindfuck really what a psychological horror is all about?
This film is director Brad Anderson’s first foray into the world of horror, having helmed to romcoms just prior to this project. As the co-writer and director of the film, he based the idea for the film very loosely on a murder that took place near his childhood home in the Boston area. The main cast of characters are all part of a work crew that is working at an asylum, Danvers State Hospital (the actual name of the facility and the name of it in the film). To save money, they filmed at this abandoned asylum and needed very little props or dressings due to the already empty and run down appearance of the buildings. The genius of this is not only the fact that they saved money, but it creates a very real and natural eeriness to the film.
Anderson’s script and direction are brought to life by the cast, with the lead of Gordon Fleming played by Peter Mullan and the second lead of Phil Cronenburg played by the impeccable David Caruso. Caruso brings his trademark intensity, while, a great character actor in his own right, Mullan oft seems legitimately off kilter and befuddled. The pair operate completely differently on screen but demand the same amount of attention from scene to scene. The rest of the cast is also great, with Josh Lucas, the great Larry Fessenden, and Brandon “My Name’s Not Warren” Sexton all putting in notable performances.
The entire story is unfolding with the backdrop of 9 recorded sessions with a woman named Mary who killed her brother Peter. In the sessions, she slips back and forth into different personalities and continually makes mention of Simon. Simon is the personality within her that, by all counts, is destructive and homicidal. Then, as we arrive at our climactic scene in the here and now, we here the ninth session playing, which is where the actual murder is described and we finally meet Simon (well, his voice anyway).
The big question in the film is whether Simon was a manifestation of Mary’s subconscious or if Simon was an evil spirit, perhaps an ancient loci protecting sacred grounds (as the asylum is noted for being being on during the film). Is Simon not only the spirit that spent some time within Mary, but also the spirit involved in the atrocities happening in the present day at this hospital? We don’t know this answer, but theories on the cult film’s meaning have been debated for the last 15 years.
The idea that there is likely a supernatural component of Simon is reinforced by his final statement when the doctor interviewing him asks, “And where do you live, Simon?” Simon replies, “I live in the weak and the wounded, Doc.” The men working at the hospital all display levels of woundedness, a couple more than others, and Mary, of course having split personalities, was psychologically impaired. However we are supposed to read this film, that final statement certainly bears importance.
Shout Factory/Scream Factory always does a stellar job on the package they present to the film collector. Besides getting the best print they can of the film and often restoring the film to a quality that has never been on a home release before, they load the discs with all types of stuff. In the case of Session 9, we start with the standard deleted scenes, gag reel, and trailer. Then, we get a commentary with Brad Anderson, the Story-to-Screen featurette, and The Haunted Palace featurette, all on previous versions of the film, but not previously packaged together. Where the real bonus is are the two brand new features: Return to Danvers, a featurette with tons of interviews with the cast 15 years after the film, and a special edition of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds focused on Danvers. All of the features are great, but even if you are just in it for the film, this Blu-ray looks fantastic.
Pick up your copy at Amazon or your favorite local retailer.