Film Reviews

Session 9 (2001) – Blu-ray Review

Brad Anderson’s Session 9 is a movie that deserves to be far more well known than it is. Released in 2001, it didn’t exactly rake in the big bucks. Failing to find mainstream success, it has however, gone on to be a firm cult classic. Second Sight, purveyors of lovely limited edition releases (Revenge, Raw, Dawn of the Dead and many more), have done their bit to help the film find a new set of fans, with a release that’s packed full of new interviews and features.

Starring Peter Mullan (Children of Men, Braveheart) as Gordon, David Caruso (CSI: Miami, NYPD Blue) as Phil, and Josh Lucas (The Lincoln Lawyer, Ford v. Ferrari) as Hank, it tells the story of a crew sent in to remove asbestos from a run down asylum. Gordon runs the crew and is assisted by Phil, Hank, Mike (Stephen Gevedon – War of the Worlds, Smoke) and his nephew Jeff (Brendan Sexton III – Russian Doll, Boys Don’t Cry). Each of the crew is dealing with their own issues as work commences. Gordon is having trouble at home following an incident with his wife and daughter, Hank has gambling problems, and Jeff is pathologically afraid of the dark, to name but a few.

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Mike finds a box of audio tapes containing recorded sessions with one particular patient, Mary Hobbes, and begins listening to them as the days pass and the work continues. In the sessions, the doctor is attempting to understand Mary’s various personalities, while coaxing out details of a crime she carried out before being committed to the hospital. As Mike works through the sessions, odd things happen around the site. One of the team goes missing, they encounter shadowy figures, and what seemed to be a simple, straight-forward job spirals deeper and deeper into violence and madness.

First off, this film looks great. This Blu-ray release is a delight for the eyes, with minimal apparent tampering to the colour grading. It looks just like the DVD release, only without the standard-def petroleum jelly smear all over the TV screen. One thing to note is that they filmed the movie using Sony HD camcorders rather than traditional film cameras, so it looks and feel almost like a shot-for-TV movie, an effect made more pronounced by the lovely clean-up job. It sounds great too, with the opening sting as sharp and intense as lemon juice in a wound. Hats off to composers Robert Millis and Jeffery Taylor (seen here under the moniker Climax Golden Twins) for their excellently discordant work on the soundtrack. It’s stood the test of time.

With a plethora of new special features on this release, it’s great to see that Second Sight has made sure not to neglect what’s gone before. Everything that was on the original UK release is on here, but they didn’t stop there, oh no. There’s plenty here for any horror fan hungry for behind-the-scenes information about Session 9. There’s a new audio commentary with Mike White and Jed Ayres, and an episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds which goes back to look at the original location where the movie was filmed. No longer a psychiatric hospital, but luxury apartments! There’s also ‘Return to Danvers’, which features interviews with cast and crew reminiscing about the making of the film and the impact it’s had on the horror genre since then.

Disc 1 contains the film and the bulk of the special features, with Disc 2 being made up of all-new interview segments which are quite interesting to watch. ‘A Twisted Collage’, featuring Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, is an in-depth look at the use of both photographic and cinematographic collages within Session 9 and was my personal favourite of these new segments.

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This Limited Edition boxset also comes with a rather pretty slipcase featuring new artwork by Christopher Shy, which pays tribute to the original design and to Session 9‘s infamous restraint chair, which features heavily in the opening moments of the film. It also includes a book with new essays by Charles Bramesco, Simon Fitzjohn and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas that includes some lovely behind-the-scenes photos. There are even six collectors’ postcards, which are nice enough, but nothing massively special. The cards mostly feature stills from scenes in the movie rather than any new art, though one of them is a print of the new box art.

Session 9 remains a criminally overlooked classic of claustrophobic, psychological horror, and one can only hope that this lovely new release from Second Sight will bring it the new fans it deserves.

Session 9 is out now on Limited Edition Blu-ray from Second Sight Films.

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