Thursday, August 4, 2011

"Mary got a doll, and Peter got a big old knife!"

I'm awake at an ungodly hour and bored, so I decided to write. A review, since I've been told those are something I can actually write.

I read Rue Morgue a lot, seeing as it takes everything Fangoria has beentrying to be and actually does it, and they mention a film called Session 9 quite a bit. I remember the film from my days as an Assistant Manager (in title only) at a big chain video rental store. The cover looked cool, but the words 'featuring NYPD Blues' David Caruso' kind of turned me off. Before I continue, why did he leave that show?

I digress. Finally I put it on the old Netflix queue (pronounced cue or Q for my American laymen out there) and it came in. Wow. I was very impressed. Even impressed with Mr. Caruso. It must have been a new pressing because the sleeve now says 'featuring CSI: Miami's David Caruso'. Progress. Following is my review of the film, enjoy.

Session 9 (2001)

Directed by: Brad Anderson

Written by: Brad Anderson and Stephen Gevedon

IMDb summary: An asbestos abatement crew wins the bid for an abandoned insane asylum. What should be a straightforward, if rather rushed job, is complicated by the personal histories of the crew. Things get more complicated as would-be lawyer Mike plays the tapes from a former patient with multiple personalities, including the mysterious Simon who does not appear until Session 9.

My Summary: I would have added 'then spookiness abounds' at the end of that imdb summary if I wrote it, but alas... Anywho, in a nutshell that's what it is. What you find out, as the movie progresses, is that the spirit of the Simon personality, is haunting the institution. And it's not just any institution, it's the Danvers State Mental Hospital in Massachusetts. It's an actual place and it's actually haunted. Wikipedia it sometime. The Ghosthunters went there once. And, the Session 9 filmnaker actually filmed inside, which is a rarity these days. Now, how that personality is haunting the place and not the actual spirit of that patient is never really explained, but that's just so you, as audience member, can come up with your own reasons. My belief, after hearing Simon talk through the tapes, is that instead of being another personality, he's actually a demon of sorts that possesses the "weak and the wounded".

Audio: 10 / 10. Not only is the dialogue clear, the sound effects and setting ambiance is amazing. Throughout the near two hour run time, you feel as if you're there with them. The music, just score, works great, too.

Visuals: 10 / 10. You can get no better than the inside of an abandoned building, whether it be a hospital or not. No production designer can mimic the eeriness of years and years of vandalism and neglect coupled with the rich history of any building. Trust me, I once acted inside Charlestown in Utica and have snuck into my fair share of abandoned buildings with friends. Ah, the life of a drunken teenager. The hospital was as much a character as the people inside it, if not moreso.

Writing: 8 / 10. I only give this an eight because of how long it takes to explain things. Now, as a "writer" and fan of older movies, I'd give this a ten, but seeing as I'm reviewing for you, the common man... the Hoi Polloi, if you will, and most of the audiences today need instant gratification, I took points away. I'm sure the typical American audience would get bored with the character development and the set up of the eeriness of the place. The use of the "session" tapes and the reflection of where the personalities come from, especially that of Simon, and how it reflects what's happening to the asbestos crew is amazing. Co-writer Stephen Gevedon also plays Mike, the one obsessed with playing the session tapes, so you know it has it's reason and it proves great in all it's expositional glory.

Acting: 8 / 10. One missing point come from the typical overdone Caruso style and his constantly titled head and looking down at the floor instead of at the other actors method. Other than those things, he actually does okay. There's no Horatio Caine stealing every scene he's in, like CSI: Miami. And there's a part where he says F*ck you like a champ. The other missing point is the fact that Brendon Sexton III in all his greasy white trash glory shows up in the film. He is best known as playing "Warren" in Empire Records and the "I'm gonna rape you" kid in Welcome to the Dollhouse. He has a mullet in this film and the other actors make fun of it, but I'm sure it's really how he had his hair at the audition. And he speaks in white boy Ebonics, as he always does. So, if you can ignore him at all, I suggest you do so. The rest of the cast is great. We have Josh Lucas looking very truck stop chic, and we know he has the acting shops to hold up... he did a film with Greasy Reesey Wtiherspoon, for land sakes... and if anyone can handle that, he can handle anything. Stepehen Gevedon is great as the obsessive would be lawyer and Peter Mullan plays the "lead" of Gordon perfectly with his oddly out of place and yet very fitting Scottish brogue. Even Paul Guilfoyle, another CSI alum, shows up. An interesting bit of trivia... he's the only one with the Boston Accent in the movie, but since he was born there, I guess he's the only one that could do it right. An actress by the name of Jurian Hughes does the voice of Mary Hobbes, the patient with all the personalities, and she also does the voices of those personalities, including Simon. We only see her in photographs, but we hear her throughout the film via the "session" tapes. Eerie and creepy as all get out.

Directing: 10 / 10. Only a master could wrangle all of those performances and coupled them with a truly scary setting. I must say that Brad Anderson is truly a master of that magnitude. Before this he was best known as a television director with such shows as Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Wire accredited to him. After this film he's done a few episodes of Fringe. He's even done an episode of the late great show The Shield and an episode of Masters of Horror. As for film, the most popular of his other films is Transsiberian starring Ben Kinglsey. According to imdb, he has some projects "in development". Let's hope there along the lines of Session 9.

Rent this movie. You'll not be disappointed,

- MARK -


J. Astro said...

"Rent" this movie? No way - BUY it. :) It's an A++ all the way.

Tony Hollywood XIII said...

Yeah, I meant buy. Damned typos!

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