Session 9

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Session 9
Dark, brown-tinted and horror-themed image of a man in an asbestos-removal suit (to the right side of the poster), with an image of a chair (in the middle of the image) and an image of a large castle-like building at the top of the image. The text "Session 9" is emboldened in white text in the middle of the image, and near the bottom of the image is written, "Fear is a place."
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Brad Anderson
Produced by John Sloss
Dorothy Aufiero
David Collins
Michael Williams
Written by Brad Anderson
Stephen Gevedon
Starring David Caruso
Peter Mullan
Stephen Gevedon
Paul Guilfoyle
Josh Lucas
Brendan Sexton III
Music by Climax Golden Twins
Cinematography Uta Briesewitz
Edited by Brad Anderson
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
Running time
100 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,612,259[2][3]

Session 9 is a 2001 American independent psychological horror film directed by Brad Anderson and written by Anderson and Stephen Gevedon. The film stars David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas and Brendan Sexton III as an asbestos abatement crew who begin to experience growing tensions while working in an abandoned mental asylum, which is paralleled by the gradual revelation of a former patient's disturbed past through recorded audio tapes of the patient's hypnotherapy sessions.[4]

The film takes place in and around the Danvers State Mental Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts, which was partially demolished five years after the film was made. While the film was not a financial success, Session 9 was moderately well-received critically and is considered a cult film.[5]


The Danvers State Hospital has been closed since 1985. Gordon Fleming (Peter Mullan), the owner of a small asbestos removal company, is in a desperate financial bind and makes a bid to remove the decrepit hospital's asbestos. He is also a new father, and the stress of work and parenthood have been causing problems between him and his wife, Wendy. Gordon's team is both small and eclectic. Mike (Stephen Gevedon) is a law school dropout, who is educated on the asylum's history. Phil (David Caruso) is filled with bitterness after losing his long-time girlfriend to Hank (Josh Lucas), another team member who can't resist taunting Phil over the issue. Because of this, Phil has taken up smoking marijuana. Jeff, Gordon's nephew (Brendan Sexton III), is the youngest member, and suffers from severe nyctophobia.

As work begins inside the hospital, Mike discovers a box marked "Evidence" in a tunnel. Inside he finds a collection of nine taped sessions with former patient named Mary Hobbes. He listens and becomes increasingly engrossed in the interviews, which detail her multiple personality disorder. Two of Hobbes' personalities are harmless and childlike. They both refer to another personality named "Simon," someone they don't want to talk about. Throughout the sessions, it is revealed that something happened involving a knife and a china doll when Mary was fourteen.

Gordon opens up to Phil and admits that he hit Wendy after she accidentally spilled a pot of boiling water on him. Remorseful, he frequently talks to his wife on his cell phone and asks her forgiveness. Meanwhile, in the tunnels running under the property, Hank finds a stash of antique Morgan dollar coins and other silver items which, unbeknownst to him, are from the back of a crematory. He returns one night to steal the artifacts, among which he finds an orbitoclast. While in the tunnels, he hears odd sounds and finds an empty peanut butter jar, the same as the kind Gordon brought home the first night at the asylum. He suddenly feels someone behind him. Terrified, Hank tries to run out of the tunnels, when he is attacked by an unseen assailant and disappears.

Gordon initially suspects that Phil murdered Hank. However, Hank is soon found by Jeff, only to disappear again when Jeff returns with Gordon to investigate. The co-workers split up to find him. Phil eventually finds him sitting on the ground in one of the tunnels, half-naked and wearing sunglasses, and repeatedly asking, "What are you doing here?" One by one, each of the men become lost in the asylum and are slowly ambushed by an unseen attacker.

Meanwhile, the recording of Mary's ninth and final session is heard. "Simon," the evil personality, finally speaks. He reveals that when Mary was a child, her brother startled her while she was playing with a china doll, causing her to fall onto it, shattering it and injuring her badly. "Simon" convinced Mary to murder her brother in retaliation. She then proceeded to murder the rest of her family. As the recording continues, Phil finds Gordon in one of the patient rooms, staring in horror at photos of Gordon's family hanging on the wall.

Later on, as the new employee replacing Hank pulls up to the asylum, Gordon is seen standing in one of the main rooms, and soon finds Hank. Phil appears and tells him to wake up and to "take a really good look at him." Gordon removes Hank's sunglasses to see the handle of the orbitoclast protruding from Hank's eye.

It is revealed that, during the previous domestic incident, Gordon murdered his wife, daughter and dog after a pot of boiling water spilled and Gordon then proceeded to murder all of his colleagues in succession; and that when Phil confronted Gordon over Hank's condition, while he was looking at the photos on the wall, Gordon turned on Phil and killed him. Gordon then proceeds to murder the new employee with the orbitoclast after he comes into the room.

Gordon, talking into his broken cell phone, starts crying and apologizing to his wife. Finally, the doctor's voice on the recording asks: "And where do you live, Simon?" to which "Simon" replies, "I live in the weak and the wounded, Doc."

Conception and production[edit]

Session 9 was director Brad Anderson's first horror film, after having directed two romantic comedy films, Next Stop Wonderland (1998) and Happy Accidents (2000). The film was inspired by a murder that took place in Boston, where Anderson grew up, in the mid-1990s, in which a man supposedly killed his wife after she accidentally burnt his dinner, then cut out her heart and lungs and put them in his backyard on a stake.[6]

Most of the film was shot in a small section of the Danvers State Asylum; according to David Caruso, the rest of the building was "unsafe" for shooting.[6] Caruso also claims the sets didn't need to be dressed as all the props featured in the film were already there inside the building.[6]

It was one of the first motion pictures to be shot in 24p HD digital video,[7] which shoots at 24 frames-per-second like film, as opposed to regular digital video which shoots at 30 frames-per-second.


Session 9 premiered at the Fantasia Festival in July 2001.[8] It was released to theaters on August 10, and ended its run on October 18, grossing a total of $378,176.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Session 9 received mixed to positive reviews from critics. The film currently holds a 62% approval rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on sixty-five reviews, with a weighted mean score of 6.2/10.[10]

Some critics praised the film's dark, eerie atmosphere and lack of gore.[10] Entertainment Weekly called the film "a marvel of vérité nightmare atmosphere."[11] Rolling Stone called it "a spine-tingler", and praised Brad Anderson's direction.[12] Los Angeles Times said of the film: "Session 9 is so effective that its sense of uncertainty lingers long after the theater lights have gone up."[13] Bloody Disgusting ranked the film fifth in its list of the twenty best horror films of the 2000s, writing, "Session 9 isn't just a cheap, hack 'n' slash, instantly-forgettable type horror film, but a psychologically probing, deeply unsettling journey off the edge and into the abyss of the human mind."[14] Slant Magazine favorably compared it to the 1973 film Don't Look Now, writing, "Anderson's creeper is nowhere near as profound, but the film's old-fashioned pacing and revelatory camerawork bring to mind [Nicholas] Roeg's uniquely terrifying dreamworlds."[15]

Some reviewers criticized the film's ending. A negative review came from Variety, who wrote, "while pic works up a nervously eerie paranoia, it finally doesn't know what to do with what it sets up."[4] San Francisco Chronicle said, "the story doesn't quite pay off, characters are underwritten and the surprise ending is contrived and unconvincing."[16] The Village Voice wrote, "the script for Session 9 is so underwritten that even such lively character actors as David Caruso, Peter Mullan and Brendan Sexton III are left stranded."[17]


In reviewing the film for the 2003 edition of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Ellen Datlow contends that Simon is not necessarily an alternate personality of the former patient Mary, but rather a malignant genius loci.[18] She also points out that the deleted scenes included on the DVD help fill out the narrative.[18]



Session 9
Same image as of film poster, but cropped to square, CD-case size and with "original motion picture score" above and "Climax Golden Twins" below "Session 9" branding.
Soundtrack album by Climax Golden Twins
Released August 21, 2001
Genre Ambient, dark ambient
Length 50:50
Label Milan
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[19]

The score to Session 9 was composed by Seattle, Washington-based experimental band Climax Golden Twins. The score is in an ambient and dark ambient vein. The soundtrack was released on August 21, 2001, through Milan Records. "Choke Chain" by Sentridoh is played over the closing credits of the film, but is not featured on the album.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Climax Golden Twins (Scott Colburn, Robert Millis, Jeffrey Taylor), except "Piece for Tape Recorder", written and recorded by Vladimir Ussachevsky

No. Title Length
1. "A Few Simple Up and Down Jerks"   4:35
2. "Hobbes Theme"   2:10
3. "Noon, About Noon"   5:06
4. "I Live in the Gut"   6:11
5. "Mortified Pride"   1:41
6. "Exit Plan"   2:14
7. "I Want to Talk to Amy"   1:13
8. "I Saw You"   2:01
9. "Ward A"   5:56
10. "Seclusion"   3:26
11. "Disappointed Expectations"   10:39
12. "Piece for Tape Recorder" (Vladimir Ussachevsky) 5:38

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Session 9 (DVD). Anderson, Brad. Universal Pictures Home Video. 2001. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Koehler, Robert (August 6, 2001). "Session 9". Variety. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  5. ^ Tobias, Scott (November 24, 2010). "Session 9 | Film | The New Cult Canon | The A.V. Club". Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Cavagna, Carlo (August 2001). "AboutFilm – David Caruso and Brad Anderson on Session 9 (2001)". Retrieved September 13, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Session 9 (2001) – Trivia – IMDb". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved August 11, 2012. 
  8. ^ "History – Cinemabox & Unisoft Present Fantasia 2012". Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Session 9 (2001) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 17, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "Session 9 – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  11. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (August 8, 2001). "Session 9". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  12. ^ Travers, Peter (August 17, 2001). "Session 9". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  13. ^ Thomas, Kevin (August 10, 2001). "Scary 'Session 9' Takes a Minimalist Approach". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  14. ^ "00's Retrospect: Bloody Disgusting's Top 20 Films of the Decade...Part 4 || Bloody DisgustingBloody Disgusting". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  15. ^ Gonzalez, Ed (July 30, 2001). "Session 9 | Film Review | Slant Magazine". Slant Magazine. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  16. ^ Guthmann, Edward (September 14, 2001). "Film Clips / Also Opening Today". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  17. ^ Taubin, Amy (August 7, 2001). "The Shinings". The Village Voice. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  18. ^ a b Datlow, Ellen; Windling, Terri (2003). The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Sixteenth Annual Collection. Macmillan. p. LXXXVIII. ISBN 0-312-31425-6. 
  19. ^ Carruthers, Sean. "Session 9 – Original Soundtrack : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved September 15, 2012. 

External links[edit]