I'd been promised by fellow horror fans that Session 9 (2001) was a superior psycho horror film.
Sometimes when I'm made such a promise, what I end up seeing is another same-old meat-cleaver axe-killer goofball gorefest, but not this time. It turned out to be quite a film indeed.
Session 9 was filmed in the actual abandoned Danvers State Lunatic Hospital, a Victorian wreck in Massachusetts that many believe to be haunted by the ghosts of the insane.
There is evidence from literary scholars that H. P. Lovecraft modeled his fabular Arkham Sanitarium on Danvers, in his tales "Pickman's Model," "Herbert West, Reanimator" & "Shadow Over Innsmouth."
Despite that that this archeological treasure was on the National Register of Historic Places, moneyed interests speak louder than cultural significance, & developers demolished the hospital in 2006 before activists could save it.
So no future films can ever be shot there, & Session 9 becomes more important for what it incidently records.
This is the hospital where prefontal labotomy was perfected. The history informs the story throughout, lending a creepy-creepy authenticity to the whole show.
A Hazmat clean-up crew is prepping the historical building for restoration. The mood of the architecture infects all of them, but one in particular is being driven stark raving insane.
The script successfully keeps us from knowing immediately which one of them is most nuts, or merely hints of a supernatural agent at large, possibly imagined because of the building's disturbing history.
The film holds back from gruesome effects until the climax, in part to sustain the suspense in the meantime, but also so we won't know too soon which one's the killer.
While the supernatural isn't required to explain what happens, there is certainly a chance that the multiple personality revealed in the ninth of the sessions (as preserved on audio tape) was an actual demonic presence that inspires mass murder.
The stunning last sentence spoken in the film makes this possible demonic presence seem particularly ghastly.
This potential but not definite supernatural ingredient to the plot adds a wonderful texture that fulfilled my viewing tastes, as I don't often prefer stories that rationalize everything robbing them of unsettling mysteriousness.
It's as tasteful as psycho horror ever gets, all the more disturbing for being well written & beautifully acted (David Caruso heading the cast) instead of merely gore-FX driven. The culminating gore scenes are sufficiently graphic, but not what the success of the tale hinges on.
All the on-screen vicims are working class guys (other victms are audio only), so this film moves about as far away from the erotification of horror as films ever get, & delves instead into the depths of actual madness & human woe.
Continue to more madhouses:
Asylum Days (2001) and Don't Look in the Basement (1973)
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl