Session 9: Who's Insane?
By
Phil Davetas
10/7/2002 9:55:22 PM

Session 9 is a little flick about five asbestos workers working some intense 7-day deadline to try and clean out the condemned Danvers insane asylum. It gives the impression that the asylum is haunted by some entity or entities of its previous occupants. Like good and evil, ghosts exist in the mind and body of the host. There is no proven physical manifestation, but the pockets of withering sanity suggest a malicious manipulation of evil. As human beings, we tend to do the right things and become better people, but like anything else, we're built like a Yin-Yang. Our conscience balances between good and evil or sane and not. Session 9 is not the greatest exercise in this theory, but it does play well in the psychological sense of projecting the fear of committing evil [or insane] acts and doing them to someone you care about.

Sanity doesn't seem to exist on one side or the other. It doesn't favor good or evil, but instead, it lurks in the dim corners of our intellect. Like a child locked in the closet in need of balanced nurturing, too much love or hate can cause shock and unpredictable results. Your toothless grandmother comes at you with salivating kisses of love, or the dark figure is coming at you with clear malicious intent. What's insane is something that's decided by someone outside of yourself. How can you tell that a man who hears voices is insane? In his mind, he hears them. And in some cases, he's probably had some brilliant conversations. His mind is the perfect ear. The mind is patient with all love and all the answers. In the world outside of the self is a set of material rules that we live by to govern our lives and our very existence and acceptance: You're sane if you look like everyone else. You're sane if you eat the right food, drive the right car, have the right job, live in the right house in the right neighborhood. You're labeled insane if you live outside the construct of what is deemed normal by 50.1% of the population. People don’t fear the loss of sanity, if there is such a thing. People fear the loss of approval.

On a horror level, this movie doesn’t work. It follows all the same patterns and pacing of both good and bad horror films, but that's because there have been so many like this prior. Of course there's always someone who knows something about some deep, dark urban legend that scares the jizz out of people. There's always someone wandering off into a dark, secluded place where no one can hear him scream. And everyone's IQ drops for the sake of giving you the creeps. One person finds a hidden treasure and goes back to the creepy asylum late at night with his headphones over his ears to eliminate him from hearing anyone sneaking up. And, yes, it takes about 15 minutes before anything authentic happens that is dangerous to the characters and that's a bad thing. Sure, you want to make a little horror story for the mature art house crowd, but the horror formula or the 3 Act Paradigm is so ingrained in the audience that it lets us know when to rest, when it's safe to run to the concession stand and refill that popcorn, when to look through the slits between your fingers, when to break for the toilet. In horror flicks, things need to ante up with a pace that's unpredictable and something happening that we aren't expecting. Easier said than done. In movies like Session 9, The Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes and many others, there's too much time to relax… or maybe start off the script with another consonant. If this is completely unavoidable then the best thing to do is create a franchise of not-so-horror-flicks like Jason and Freddy.


Special Features:
Mediocre deleted scenes and alternate ending, production comparisons, trailer, a little featurette about the Danvers house, along with some silly interviews with the cast and crew. Filmmakers' Commentary.

Session 9 (3 out of Four)
R, 2001, 97 min., USA Home Entertainment.

David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas, Peter Mullan, Brendan Sexton III, Charley Broderick, Lonnie Farmer, Larry Fessenden, Jurian Hughes, Sheila Stasack, Music by Climax Golden Twins, Produced by David Collins, Dorothy Aufiero and Michael Williams, Written by Brad Anderson and Stephen Gevedon and Directed by Brad Anderson.

 

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