Session 9 movie full length review - Absolutely Terrifying
Stylistically, "Session 9" belongs to a class of films perhaps best exemplified by "The Blair Witch Project," that is, to a class of horror movies that prefer to suggest and i
mply terrible things rather than show them explicitly, trusting in the viewer's imagination to fill in the details better than an effects shop ever could. This might be called the "Jaws" principle: The shark is scarier if we never show it clearly. Stephen King talks about the same idea in his non-fiction treatise on horror fiction "Danse Macabre;" he calls the process of revealing the terror "opening the door," and maintains that good horror fiction never opens the door all the way.
Sophisticated horror audiences, in my experience, prefer films that operate in this way. Joe Six-Pack, however, when he's out looking for a film to take his date to on Halloween (preferably one that'll induce maximum groping) is likely to prefer more explicit terror. Likewise with those members of the MTV generation who don't remember the days before CGI effects. The subtle psychological horror of "Session 9" is likely to be lost on these folks, and this phenomenon, I think, explains why the film is so catastrophically underrated here on IMDb. Put simply, "Session 9" is--along with "The Exorcist" and "The Shining"--one of the top three greatest horror movies of the modern era.
The premise is like that of "The Exorcist," without all the Catholic trappings. Summed up, there are demons ("Session 9" actually only seems to involve one such demon, but presumably there might be others) who haunt physical locations in the world waiting for opportunities to possess human beings. Such an opportunity occurs when a person under a high level of general stress is subjected to a sudden painful physical injury, perhaps caused accidentally by another's carelessness. During the swelling of rage that follows the pain of the wound, the demon is able to insinuate itself into the victim's psyche and, by auditory stimulation or other means, reinforce the natural and primal instinct to respond to pain with physical violence. Thus, for example, a woman whose child has recently gone missing might, if her husband were to accidentally slam her fingers in the car door, be goaded by the demon into actually strangling him to death with the seatbelt, rather than just thinking about doing it.
Such a tragedy befell Mary Hobbes. As a little girl, she killed both her brother and parents with a butcher knife when, having been startled by her brother in a darkened attic, she dropped her new china doll and fell onto the shards. Once the demon had found its way in, it proved difficult or impossible to expel, and Mary was treated as a lunatic. Committed to the Danvers State Hospital, she grew to adulthood in the presence of no fewer than four personalities: Mary herself, a little girl named "Princess," a little boy named "Billy," and the demon itself, who is called "Simon." The function of both Princess and Billy seems to be to protect Mary's psyche from Simon's presence, and from the childhood memory of what happened to her brother and parents. At Danvers, Mary aged and died, at which point Simon left her body and took up residence in the hospital building itself, waiting for another victim.
The events of "Session 9" take place at least 15 years later, after the closing of Danvers State Hospital and the abandonment of the building and grounds. The local municipality, planning to renovate the building for use as a city administrative facility, hires a HAZMAT team to first remove all the asbestos from the century-old, decaying structure. The 5-man team, led by the staunt, likable Gordon, bids low and fast in order to secure the contract, which Gordon, at least, desperately needs to support his wife and infant daughter. Having won the bid, Gordon is in a situation that requires him to finish a tough and dangerous job for significantly less than standard wages in about a third of the time suggested by prudence, or lose his job and be unable to support his child--a child which, it becomes clear, he might not have even wanted that much to begin with. Suffice to say he is under considerable personal stress.
Mary's demon, Simon, who is still haunting the hospital, senses Gordon's weakness during the initial tour of the facility and latches on to him. Later that same day, when Gordon returns to his house, Simon is still tracking him, waiting to strike. When Gordon's wife accidentally knocks a pot full of boiling water off the stove and onto his leg, Simon seizes the opportunity. Possessed, Gordon kills both his wife and infant daughter. This fact, however, is not revealed until the end of the movie, a week later.
During the following days, we watch as the HAZMAT team slowly comes unraveled, succumbing man-by-man to the evil force or forces at work in the hospital. One of the team discovers, amidst the detritus in one of the rooms, a series of taped interviews between an unnamed psychiatrist and the late Mary Hobbes and quickly becomes obsessed with them. As the tapes are played, day by day, we learn Mary's story and are gradually introduced to each one of her alternate personalities, culminating, at the end of the movie, with Simon. By the time Simon's voice appears on the tapes (truly the most terrifying part of the film) Gordon, who is by that time actually possessed by Simon or something very much like him, is beginning to lose his battle to repress the memory of what he's done (which is tantamount to repressing the demon's control over his actions) and starts killing off his crewmates, one by one.
The movie provides no resolution, only (partial) explanation. There is no return to order, no ultimate victory of good over evil, and no "Or *did* they?" ending, all of which, for my money, are refreshing departures from convention.