People in Session 9 (2001) are scared of the dark
Brad Anderson’s first horror movie was Session 9 in 2001 and you can’t ask for much more than what he delivered. It has all the things I like in a horror movie, things like weird meanings, scary visuals, strange sounds, and drama. It is pretty unique, but has a lot in common with other psychological horror movies, like The Shining. On the whole, the movie is just as cryptic as The Shining, which is why it was heavily criticized when it first came out. But honestly, it has a lot of plot holes. Mostly, that stuff doesn’t bother me, because the inane stuff with worth sitting through for the atmosphere.
The dialogue in this movie is almost as good as the atmosphere. The characters feel real and their conversations give the whole movie the same vibe. Most of the characters fit some sort of loose archetype. Jeff is the young punk who likes metal music, Hank is the sleazy jackass, Mike is the brain, Gordon is the stressed family man, and Phil is the working man. David Caruso as Phil was a good role for him at the time, and he puts on a good performance.
I think I’ve reviewed this movie before, but it is worth coming back to in order to explore the metaphors and meanings. The most obvious is the insinuation that insanity or evil infects the crew working on cleaning out the abandoned mental institution. Mike discovers tapes of several doctor sessions, which begins a slow burn to his discovery of the horror, which he falls victim to.
Probably the most popular opinion is that the spirits who live in the building killed the crew or drove them insane enough so they would kill themselves. My theory is more psychological, since we never really see the ghosts, but this theory relies on the fact that all the atmosphere is fake.
Everything hints at the infectious nature of evil. Many of the scenes involve discussions about stress and weird stuff that happened at the mental institution. Gordon as the loony is most effected by this weird stuff, as he cracks under the stress. I can’t explain the rest of the things that happen in the movie, but that doesn’t really mean much because the unknown is pretty scary.
There are also plenty of regular scares too, like when Hank visits the building at night and thinks he sees something in the dark. It is later implied either the ghosts got him or Gordon killed him, since he’s the crazy one.
The dark is great atmospheric element in this movie, and works very well. Even though most of the movie takes place in the daytime, the building is caked with yellow and shadowy, grey walls, which makes the dark all the most contrast to the environment.
All in all, I will never understand this movie and never want to. The atmosphere and the creepy visuals work very well, at least for me. A little bit of understanding about the psychological aspects of the movie is good enough for me.