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Film / Session 9

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".... It's gonna get ugly."

A 2001 Psychological Horror about a cleaning crew busy taking asbestos off from the Danvers State Asylum (opened in 1855, condemned in 1985), which ends up being a much more...stressful job than any of them bargained for. Directed by Brad Anderson and starring Peter Mullan, David Caruso and Josh Lucas.

The movie provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: An actual one, a prominent landmark along Route 1. Very few changes were made to the site for the film. It is now an apartment complex.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The Sessions, the 9th of which gives the title of the movie and plays at the end. And delivers one of the most, if not THE most, bone-chilling scenes in the movie.
  • Bloody Handprint: Seen on the van door when Craig arrives, foreshadowing Jeff's fate.
  • Building of Adventure: Almost all scenes are shot around or inside the asylum.
  • Cat Scare: Hank gets scared by noises in the Creepy Basement and eventually comes across some disturbed pigeons which he thinks were the cause.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In one scene, Hank finds some equipment for lobotomy. Later in the movie, Gordon lobotomizes him with them, coupling it with Chekhov's Skill from Mikey's earlier mock-demonstration/description of the process on Jeff.
  • Creepy Basement: The scary moments with Hank in the dark basement where he finds valuables but also hears noises. Jeff later also finds himself in a dark tunnel after a generator failure.
  • Death by Recognition: A scene during the Once More, with Clarity reveal at the end shows Hank in the basement bumping into someone unseen and asking him what he is doing there followed by him screaming.
  • Death of a Child: One of Gordon's victims is his baby daughter.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: It's mentioned that Mike's dad was a DA, and that Mike himself has ambitions of going into law school eventually. None of that really matters, because Mike gets murdered along with everyone else. The same goes with Hank and Phil's relationship drama with Amy.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: On one hand, there is Mary killing her brother for breaking her doll and then killing her parents to avoid them getting mad at her. And then there is Gordon killing his wife because she accidentally spilled hot water on him and then his baby and dog because they were making noise. Whether this is also the reason behind the death of the team members is left unclear with maybe the exception of Phil.
  • Downer Ending: Gordon killed his wife, daughter and colleagues (even if the jury's still out on Hank), during a DID-induced psychotic break. Or, alternatively, after being possessed by Simon.
  • Eye Scream: See Chekhov's Gun. It's revealed that after Gordon lobotomized Hank, he left the silver 'ice-pick' embedded to the hilt in Hank's eye. He does the same thing to Craig.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Inverted. Gordon shows the team photos of his baby daughter and his wife, which might suggest Gordon will die before the end of the film. Gordon survives. His team and his family are not so lucky.
  • Fauxshadow: Lots of clues are dropped to make Phil the villain of the story, like him lying about the phone call to Amy and turning the crew against Gordon. Turns out he is innocent.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Phil claims that everyone heard Amy say that Hank had gone to Miami to go to casino school, Gordon points out that none of them actually heard it: Phil claimed to have been on the phone to Amy, but they didn't actually hear her saying that herself. This clues the audience into the fact that we haven't actually heard Gordon's wife over the phone, we're just seeing him supposedly talking to her.
    • There's also - the scream heard during the Smash to Black when Gordon's going in to give Emma the roses, though it's overlaid onto the generator, Hank musing about how Gordon is the only one who doesn't have an "escape plan" to get out of their field, and Mikey tells Jeff about how everyone has to have something to keep them centered while working with such dangerous material, and that Gordon is a zen master of keeping his calm - but the cracks are starting to show.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: Both this and Split Personality in regards to Mary and Gordon.
    • In Mary's case, Simon talked her into brutally murdering her entire family.
    • Simon is also the one who gets to Gordon and first makes him murder his wife, dog and newborn child, then slaughter all his co-workers.
  • Haunted House: One explanation for Gordon's Sanity Slippage is that he got possessed by a ghost from the asylum.
  • Haunted House Historian: Mike informs the crew about the (fictional) Patricia Willard scandal that was part of the reason why the asylum was closed down on the 1980s.
  • Hearing Voices: Gordon starts hearing Simon speak to him when they get introduced to the asylum and visit Ward A.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Jeff encounters Hank in the building after the latter was thought to have left for Florida. He runs to get the rest of the crew but when they return Hank is gone and Jeff drops this stock phrase.
  • Jerkass:
    • Hank. What happened to him was still rather jarring and sad though, mostly due to how drawn out it was. Jerkass or not, he didn't deserve that, but that's rather the point anyway.
    • Phil. Very much so. Phil is played as the biggest jerk in the movie, even worse than Hank towards the end, constantly giving the others shit and acting like an irrational asshole. This is probably a Red Herring to make Phil seem even more like the killer.
    • They're all jerkasses aside from Jeff. Mike is a mild Jerkass as well, since he is more on the teasing rather than cruel side.
  • The Killer in Me: The protagonist who we follow most of the time turns out to be the killer.
  • Lobotomy: The practice of frontal lobotomy is discussed by the workers, and two eventually take place.
  • Madness Mantra: Hank keeps repeating "What are you doing here?" over and over again. These were the last words he said before he received an icepick lobotomy.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Are the horrific events that take place caused by Gordon snapping and killing his wife and daughter, then suffering Sanity Slippage afterward, or was he possessed by Simon before even that occurred, due to Simon's professed love of "liv[ing] in the weak and the wounded"?
  • Multi-Gendered Split Personalities: A sub-plot revolves around a psychiatric patient named Mary Hobbes, who suffered from dissociative identity disorder and had three "alters" named The Princess, Billy and Simon. Billy and Simon sound very masculine and have masculine names while The Princess sounds more feminine. The film leaves it deliberately ambiguous whether this is actually a case of dissociative identity disorder or Demonic Possession.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The only time you see any blood is in the denouement. Also, the scariest parts (Gordon killing his wife and infant daughter, Mary's story, Gordon killing everyone) happen off screen. Though there's actually quite a bit of blood towards the end; it just isn't splattered all over the screen.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The Reveal provides flashbacks to all murder scenes but this time with footage of what actually happened includes a different voiceover of the inciting incident at Gordon's home.
  • Onscreen Chapter Titles: The movie is split into chapters for each day, starting with Monday, with each new chapter announced via an on-screen title.
  • Pater Familicide: The Reveal shows that Gordon killed first his wife and then their baby daughter due to psychological stress or possession.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Although there was much fuss about the tight schedule, the crew is rarely shown doing any actual work and we rather see them resting and talking. Mike even sneaks out during working hours to listen to old tapes with no one noticing.
  • Plot Parallel: The B-plot of Mary Hobbes' accident with her doll leading her to become a Self-Made Orphan by killing her whole family gets mirrored in the A-plot with Gordon killing his wife and daughter in the wake of a household accident.
  • Psychological Horror: There are only one or two "scare moments" throughout the film and instead the film relies on a lingering sense of tension and dread.
  • Recycled In Space: It's basically The Shining IN AN ABANDONED MENTAL ASYLUM!
  • Room Full of Crazy: One patient's room is full of blood-smeared photos and clippings.
  • Self-Made Orphan: The backstory of Mary Hobbes, who got possessed by Simon and went on to kill her brother and her parents at a young age.
  • The Sixth Ranger: Craig gets called in after Hank's disappearance, only to be murdered almost immediately after arriving at the asylum.
  • Slow Electricity: When the power generator fails, the lights turn out on Jeff one by one as he runs along the tunnel.
  • Split Personality: Mary from the tapes appears to have three personalities named Princess, Billy and Simon. Simon is the one which drove her to murder, and the end of the film implies that Simon is now inhabiting Gordon as well.
  • Talking to Themself: There are two interesting variations.
    • Mary and her personalities. Mary can't communicate with anyone else, Princess only watches Mary and talks to Billy, Billy watches everyone and can contact all but Mary (though he avoids Simon) and Simon can talk to everyone, including Mary.
    • Gordon talking with already dead Phil in his head. Also possibly Gordon talking to his dead wife on a broken phone.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Gee, Jeff, your Uncle Gordon is coming towards you holding a sharp object in his hand, splattered in blood, and looking pissed, and you think it's about the Oreos? Although this might be excused due to Jeff coming down from an adrenaline rush and nyctophobia attack.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Double subverted. Gordon initially appears charming, friendly and easy-going, before... well, you know.
  • Visual Title Drop: "Session 9" is never voide-dropped but we gets close-ups on the tapes Mike listens to with the last one being titled Session 9 in which Simon gets revealed.
  • Wham Line:

"I live in the weak and wounded, doc."