September 12, 2015

DVD Review: Session 9 (2001)
(aka Simon)
Release Date: August 10th, 2001.
Country: USA
Rating: R
Written by: Brad Anderson and Stephen Gevedon.
Directed by: Brad Anderson.
Starring: Peter Mullan, David Caruso, Josh Lucas, Stephen Gevedon, Brendan Sexton III, and Larry Fessenden.

One of the best pure Horror movies of the new millennium (or that we've ever seen, period), Session 9 is a quiet, eerie movie that will get under your skin and stay there. For days.

Now, the tough, jaded type of Horror fans who take pride in the fact that nothing can scare them, might be immune to the effects of this movie. Everyone else though, will most likely be freaked out after watching Session 9, especially if you watch it alone, in the dark, and late at night... which is how most Horror movies should always be watched anyhow.

The "What We Learned" section below is going to contain a pretty big spoiler for the movie, and if you haven't seen it yet, we implore you to skip that section completely, until you have. This is a great movie, and it deserves to be seen 100% Spoiler Free. Please don't ruin it for yourselves.

The plot for this one is pretty simple, and even a bit sparse: A Hazmat crew accepts a job removing asbestos from the abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital, wherein strange things begin to happen. And by strange, we mean creepy.

Crew boss Gordon needs this job to keep his company afloat, and with a new baby at home, he's under a lot of stress to pull this job off perfectly. Right hand man Phil is there to support Gordon, although he's not thrilled that another guy on the crew, Hank, stole his girlfriend from him, and is banging her on the reg, always happy to shove it in Phil's face. Mike is the vaguely dissatisfied ex-lawyer who is living well below his expectations, and Jeff is Gordon's goofy Nephew who is afraid of the dark, and paralyzingly so.

When Mike finds an old box containing session tapes of a doctor interviewing his patient, Mary Hobbes (who killed her family and suffers from multiple-personality disorder), he is compelled to listen to them... which leads to everyone on the crew to begin mentally deteriorating in their own way.

...and that's all we're saying about the plot.

Session 9 is an absolute clinic on how to tell a terrifying story using little more than mood and atmosphere. This movie gets under your skin not only with its perfect, terrifying location, but with the subtle sense of wrongness that it establishes from the start. When we think of movies that have genuinely scare and unnerved us -and we're talking about in our adult lives here, not when we were kids, when everything scared us- Session 9 is one of the very first movies that comes to mind.

And years after the fact, when we do think about Session 9, we always hear that damn piano music in our heads.

From the start of the movie, you get the feeling that something wrong, and maybe even evil, is afoot here. Mike is virtually lead to the box that contains the session tapes, and once he begins to listen to them, and become obsessed with the disturbing interviews with Mary Hobbes, everything starts going horribly wrong for he and his crew. Are the happenings supernatural, or purely psychological? That's been intentionally left for the viewer to decide for themselves, and you can argue the case for one over the other all you like, but the honest answer is that it's both.

The true star of this movie is the historic Danvers State Hospital. The birthplace of the frontal lobotomy, it's the perfect setting for a Horror movie, and in fact, it's been a part of Horror lore since way back when it was referenced in H.P. Lovecraft's work. It's since been demolished (which is a shame), but the fact that they were able to shoot Session 9 there will keep it alive in our nightmares forever. Oh, and the grounds that it was built on was originally called Salem Village; you know, where the Salem Witch Trials took place. CREEPY.

The human cast of the movie was pretty damned impressive in this one too. Peter Mullan is one of the best actors working today, who most people probably don't even know about. His work in Session 9, as well as Red Riding and Top of the Lake, is enough to make him one of our faves. Love him or hate him, David Caruso does his best David Caruso here, which is cool with us. Everyone else played their parts well enough.

Who would honestly take a job at a creepy-ass place like that? Even if it's not haunted, the odds that there's a Serial Killer or maniac living there are pretty strong, so either way, you're probably going to die there.

What ever happened to David Caruso? His career started off so strong, and them he kind of faded away, eventually ending up starring in that lame, tame CSI bullshit. He could have been one of the greats.

There's a little bit of gore here and there, especially towards the end, but it's a mostly bloodless affair overall.


 ***Don't read this section until after you've watched the movie. Watch it with no preconceived notions in your head, then come back and read this.***

Is Session 9 about someone having a mental breakdown, or is there a more supernatural element at play here? While Brad Anderson and Stephen Gevedon left the ending as ambiguous as possible, and people will argue that it's all about a mental breakdown, and nothing more, there's no way that "Simon" isn't an external entity of some kind.

The scene at the beginning of the movie were Gordon sees the chair, we see his face slowly covered by a darkness, and then we hear "Simon's" voice say "Hello, Gordon." Now, he hears the voice before the box with the session tapes is even found and opened (and it's sealed up pretty tightly, in an out of the way location), so there's no way that Gordon heard the tapes or knew about "Simon" before his breakdown, so it can't be a byproduct of his losing his mind.

Gordon does have a break from reality, and he totally loses his shit, but we truly believe that whatever "Simon" is, helped to facilitate that break.

"Simon" lives in the weak and the wounded, after all, Doc.

One of the best scary movies that we've ever seen, Session 9 is a Must See for any self-respecting Horror fan. Whether it's a Psychological Thriller or a Haunted House flick is up to you to decide, but either way, this is one effective, bleak movie that will chill you to the bone, and linger in your mind long after you've finished watching.

Buy it or rent it, just make sure it's on your Halloween watch list come this October.


Session 9 is available now on DVD.

Since there's basically no female presence in Session 9, here are some more stills from the movie, for you to creep yourselves out over. Enjoy.


  1. I first rented this shortly after it came out while visiting my family over Christmas, and we watched it together in the middle of the day. This was an error on my part as my family is not a big horror group as a rule (even though I love it) and their dislike rubbed off on me. Let this be a lesson - don't try to share a good horror film with non-horror fans. They can really ruin the experience.
    It was only a few years later I happened to watch it not in the company of horror philistines and realized what a great film it was.
    More Spoiler space.......

    The lobotomy itself was especially horrifying to me - that whole concept terrifies me. But the rest of the file was so perfectly eerie.

    1. Agreed, Jasper. You have to be in the right company to enjoy certain Horror flicks, usually the more "Serious" ones.

    2. I also think, besides being in the right company, you have to be in the right mind set or atmosphere. I remember first seeing this in the middle of the day and hating it but recently seeing it late night and loving it.

    3. Exactly. This is definitely a quiet, nighttime, watch it alone type of movie.

  2. I'm so happy to see you give this a 5! Been waiting on a Blu Ray of this forever. It's one of the most effective and well done Horror flicks of the last 20 years. I love, love, love this film. Brad Anderson has since fallen way the fuck off (Vanishing on 7th Street, The Call, Stonehearst Asylum; all woeful) but his earlier films are really good - Next Stop Wonderland and Happy Accidents, although not Horror, are a couple of my favorites in the "Romantic Comedy" genre. The Machinist was really good, his Masters of Horror segment "Sounds Like" (I think thats the name) was good and I even liked Transiberian. I'm still rooting for the guy but his films are really sucking it these days.

    1. Yeah, his movies haven't been anywhere near as good. I'm honestly starting to believe that he jsut doesn't want to do a pure Horror movie anymore.

  3. I watched this movie recently, for the 4th time at 2 am by myself. I thought, having seen it before, that the movie wouldn't scare me that much. I was sooo wrong. "When we think of movies that have genuinely scare and unnerved us -and we're talking about in our adult lives here, not when we were kids, when everything scared us- Session 9 is one of the very first movies that comes to mind. " I agree 100%, this movie is just amazing. One of the few movies (beside this) that really scared me in my "adult" life was Lake mungo, especially one scene that really fucked me. Great review as usual. Sorry for my terrible english

    1. Your English is fine, please don't worry about it.

      And Lake Mungo got us too. That movie shouldn't be scary at all, but it absolutely is.