Wednesday, October 21, 2015

31 Days of Horror- Day 21: Session 9 (2001)

(dir. Brad Anderson)

Universal Pictures
An asbestos removal team encounter supernatural occurrences at the Danvers State Mental Hospital.

There’s a weird, almost dream-like quality to Brad Anderson’s Session 9. Part of this can be chalked up to the film’s cheap and grainy look. But beyond its budgetary restrictions, Session 9 is purposeful in its odd ambiance, and its attempts to create normalcy. The actors display a heightened machoism, and their tensions with each other are high from the start of the film, but there’s nothing natural about any of these performances. The characters never seem like an actual asbestos removal crew, and instead seem like they are simply playing pretend. When the characters interact with each other, the camera gets too close to their faces and lingers on them too long, this lack of distance and added beat only furthered the discomfort felt when watching the film.

Session 9 lingers on the spaces of the State Mental Hospital, the gaping emptiness of the place and its ability to distort sound. Even though most of the film takes place in daylight, Anderson manages to make the space frightening and more than a little depressing through his use of a yellowish and orange tint. The session tapes from a deceased patient add to the film’s eerie tension, but they don’t fit smoothly into the present-day story. There’s a disconnect in the plot points introduced, and there’s little explanation for the strange occurrences, which makes the film as a whole all the more frightening and interesting.

Scare Factor: 4/5 Like some horrific hallucination where everything is just one pace behind reality, Session 9 offers near constant discomfort in both style and story. It relies on the inexplicable nature of horror and mood instead of narrative accessibility or character depth. Session 9 manages to turn what would normally be viewed as negative attributes in other films into its biggest strengths. 

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