Session 9 is a Brad Anderson film—Anderson had already directed the underrated time-travel rom-com Happy Accidents, and would go on to make The Machinist. Session 9 was a departure for Anderson into the psychological thriller or horror genre, the genres he has worked in ever since for the most part. He also works a lot on television these days.
The film didn’t do much business when it came out, even overseas, but it became a cult favourite on DVD. It’s about an asbestos clean-up crew led by Gordon Fleming (David Caruso) who take on a job at an abandoned mental asylum, and the interpersonal drama between the five-man crew. There’s a sense that the place may be haunted, and there’s a shade of The Shining in there. Obviously, anything connected to abandoned asylums is a little creepy. Also, it’s easily one of the best things Caruso has ever done—it was the next to last film he did before retiring from the showbusiness.
It was shot on very primitive HD digital video, at 24 frames per second, giving it a frame rate that’s closer to film. This is probably what makes it look a lot better than may digital films made at the time. The result is a creepy film with an interesting dramatic arc involving the solid cast, which also includes Josh Lucas and Peter Mullan. From all accounts when they made it there were some strange goings-on in the actual disused asylum where it was shot, and perhaps that added to the atmosphere on set. There is a complicated history between the crew members, and the asylum’s past comes back to haunt them.
It’s a solidly effective horror film that definitely changed the course of Anderson’s career. Although The Machinist is his best film by some margin, despite its very obvious twist, this is probably Anderson’s second-best feature. It’s also a favourite of author Chuck Palahnuik—Anderson would be a really good pick to do a film of one of his books.
This limited-edition reissue from Second Sight includes a new audio commentary with Mike White and Jed Ayres, plus a port of the other audio commentary with Anderson. Also included are new interviews with Anderson, actor Stephen Gevedon, producer David Collins, director of photography Uta Briesewitz, production designer Sophie Carthian, and composers Robert Millis and Jeffrey Taylor. Additional extras are an appreciation by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, three featurettes on the film and its setting, a Story to Screen featurette with option commentary from Anderson, deleted scenes and an alternative ending. Interestingly, the deleted scenes suggest a different interpretation of the film…