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 byBrad Anderson
Written by
  • Brad Anderson
  • Stephen Gevedon
Produced by
CinematographyUta Briesewitz
Edited byBrad Anderson
Music byClimax Golden Twins
Distributed byUSA Films[1]
Release date
  • August 10, 2001 (2001-08-10)
Running time
100 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.6 million[2]

Session 9 is a 2001 American psychological horror film directed by Brad Anderson and written by Anderson and Stephen Gevedon. The film stars David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Brendan Sexton III, Josh Lucas, and Gevedon as an asbestos abatement crew who take a clean-up job at an abandoned mental asylum amid an intense work schedule, growing tensions, and mysterious events occurring around them. Its title refers to a series of audio-taped sessions with an asylum patient that run parallel to the crew's experiences.

The film marked a tonal departure for Anderson, who previously only directed romantic comedies. Production took place on location at the Danvers State Mental Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts. While not a financial success, Session 9 developed a reputation as a cult film.[3]


Gordon Fleming, the owner of an asbestos abatement company in Massachusetts, makes a bid to remove asbestos from Danvers State Hospital. Desperate for money, he promises to complete the job in only one week, despite requiring two to three weeks. His crew includes Mike, a law school dropout who is knowledgeable about the asylum's history; Phil, who is dealing with his grief over a recent breakup; Hank, a gambling addict; and Gordon's nephew Jeff, who has a pathological fear of the dark.

While surveying the job site, Gordon hears a disembodied voice that greets him by name. The men begin their job, and Mike discovers a box containing nine audio-taped therapy sessions that were recorded with Mary Hobbes, a patient who suffered from dissociative identity disorder. Mike begins listening to the tapes in the ensuing days. In the sessions, Mary's psychologist attempts to unveil details surrounding a crime she committed at her home two decades prior. Mary exhibits numerous personalities who have unique voices and demeanors.

Meanwhile, Hank discovers a cache of antique silver dollar coins and other valuables from the crematory. Late that night, he returns to the hospital to retrieve the items and discovers a lobotomy pick among them. He becomes frightened by noises and a shadowy figure, and is confronted by an unknown assailant.

Hank fails to show up to work the next day. An additional worker, Craig McManus, is hired to take his place. Gordon confides in Phil that he slapped his wife Wendy after she inadvertently splashed him with boiling water, and that she refuses to answer his calls or let him see their infant daughter. In a stairwell in the hospital, Jeff witnesses Hank staring out a window wearing sunglasses, talking to himself.

Hank goes missing and the men split up to search for him, but Mike is compelled to continue listening to the tapes. Jeff and Phil descend into the tunnels beneath the hospital where Phil finds Hank, half-nude, muttering to himself. The generator runs out of fuel, leaving a terrified Jeff trapped in darkness. Mike restores the electricity and continues listening to the ninth and final tape, which reveals that one of Mary's malignant personalities, "Simon," was responsible for Mary murdering her family. Phil finds Gordon in Mary's former hospital room, staring at photos from his daughter's baptism which he has pasted to the wall. Jeff emerges from the tunnels and is attacked by an unseen assailant at the company van.

The following day, Gordon arrives at the hospital and finds Hank wrapped in plastic sheeting in one of the rooms, the lobotomy pick protruding from his eye. He is then confronted by Phil, who repeatedly tells him to "wake up" before vanishing in front of him. Craig witnesses Gordon standing over Hank, who is barely alive. Gordon attacks Craig before pulling the lobotomy pick from Hank's eye and stabbing it into Craig′s. Gordon, in a dissociated state, finds the bodies of each of his men in various rooms in the hospital, and recounts his murdering each of them. He also recalls killing Wendy, his daughter and the dog after Wendy spilled the boiling water on him.

Distraught, Gordon confusedly attempts to call his home to apologize to Wendy. An excerpt from the ninth tape plays: Mary's doctor asks her, "And where do you live, Simon?" to which "Simon" responds: "I live in the weak and the wounded, Doc."



In reviewing the film for the 2003 edition of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Edward Bryant contends that Simon is not necessarily an alternate personality of the former patient Mary, but rather a malevolent genius loci.[4] He also points out that the deleted scenes included on the DVD help fill out the narrative.[4] Critics have also pointed out similarities and references to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980).[5][3][6]

Scholar Heike Schwarz states that Session 9 "refers to DID [ Dissociative identity disorder ] and a possible possession with a demonic personality."[7] M. Scott Peck also saw evil originating from weakness or cowardice.[8]



Session 9 was director Brad Anderson's first horror film, after directing two romantic comedy films, Next Stop Wonderland (1998) and Happy Accidents (2000). Anderson describes Session 9 as an "American tragedy", and states that he and screenwriter Stephen Gevedon aimed "to subvert the conventions of the so-called horror genre that exists now", which he describes as "less horror than it is teen thriller."[9]

The film's plot was inspired by the Richard Rosenthal case, 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.[9] Anderson states that it was also "as you imagine, very much inspired by the location",[10] Danvers State Asylum.

Don't Look Now, directed by Nicolas Roeg, was one inspiration for the film, for its sense of place and because the lead character realizes in the climax that he is at the heart of the mystery.[11] Anderson has stated that he aimed to use sound to convey the plot as well as to generate "a creepy tone"; the sound design incorporated the subliminal use of animal and mechanical noises.[9]


Most of the film was shot in a small section of the Danvers Asylum;[12] according to actor David Caruso, the rest of the building was "unsafe" for shooting.[9] Caruso also claims the sets did not need to be dressed as all the props featured in the film were already there inside the building.[9] Elaborating Caruso said:

It was a place you never got comfortable in. It wasn't like day three and we were throwing water balloons because it was so much fun to be there. It was always scary. You can really feel the pain of the people that went through Danvers. It's a rough environment. It's not fun. It's on the film. They didn't have to dress any sets, or anything. All of that stuff was sitting there. The federal government walked away from it about thirty years ago. It was a terrifying location.[12]

It was one of the first motion pictures to be shot in 24p HD digital video,[13] 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.[14][15] It was released to theaters on August 10, playing on 30 screens.[2] It ended its American theatrical run on October 18, grossing a total of $378,176.[2] The film was a greater financial success abroad, earning $1.2 million internationally.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 66% based on 74 reviews, with an average rating 6.30/10. The site's consensus states, "Relying more on atmosphere than gore, Session 9 is effectively creepy".[16] On Metacritic it has a score of 58% based on reviews from 16 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[17]

Some critics praised the film's dark, eerie atmosphere and lack of gore. Entertainment Weekly called the film "a marvel of vérité nightmare atmosphere".[18] Rolling Stone called it "a spine-tingler", and praised Brad Anderson's direction.[19] 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."[20] 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."[21] 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 [Nicolas] Roeg's uniquely terrifying dreamworlds."[22]

Some reviewers criticized the film's ending. A negative review came from Variety, which wrote, "while pic works up a nervously eerie paranoia, it finally doesn't know what to do with what it sets up."[23] San Francisco Chronicle said, "the story doesn't quite pay off, characters are underwritten and the surprise ending is contrived and unconvincing."[24] 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."[25] Dave Kehr, in a mixed review for The New York Times, praises the "impeccable" performances and the dialogue's "authentic working-class snap", but criticizes the pacing which "often feels long and aimless", and concludes that the film "loses any sense of urgency or structure" because of Anderson's choice to leave the connections between events unstated.[26]

Home media[edit]

USA Films and Universal Home Entertainment released a DVD of Session 9 on February 26, 2002.[27] A Blu-ray edition was released in August 2016 by Scream Factory.[28]


Session 9
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedAugust 21, 2001
GenreAmbient, dark ambient
Professional ratings
Review scores

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

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
11."Disappointed Expectations"10:39
12."Piece for Tape Recorder" (Vladimir Ussachevsky)5:38

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Session 9". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Los Angeles, California: American Film Institute. Archived from the original on April 8, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d "Session 9 (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Tobias, Scott (November 24, 2010). "Session 9". The A.V. Club. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Datlow & Windling 2003, p. LXXXVIII.
  5. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (June 7, 2010). "CULT MOVIE REVIEW: Session 9 (2001)". John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV. Archived from the original on 2018-02-04. Retrieved 2018-02-04.
  6. ^ Collins, Brian (August 17, 2016). "Collins' Crypt: SESSION 9 Scares Me Even More Now". Birth.Movies.Death. Archived from the original on February 4, 2018.
  7. ^ Schwarz 2014, p. 296.
  8. ^ Peck, M. Scott. (1983, 1988). People of the Lie: The hope for healing human evil. Century Hutchinson.
  9. ^ a b c d e Cavagna, Carlo (August 2001). "David Caruso and Brad Anderson on Session 9 (2001)". AboutFilm. Archived from the original on December 19, 2019.
  10. ^ Beckerman, Jim (August 9, 2001). "Imagining the Worst". The Record. Hackensack, New Jersey. p. F-8 – via
  11. ^ Prophete, Bettina (2001). "The Brad Anderson Sessions: On "Session 9" and "Happy Accidents"". AMC. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  12. ^ a b Orange, B. Alan (July 23, 2001). "Agent Orange: Session 9 with Director Brad Anderson & David Caruso". MovieWeb. Archived from the original on January 16, 2020.
  13. ^ Murray, Noel (February 27, 2013). "Session 9 turns an abandoned asylum and digital video's limits into assets". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 31, 2022.
  14. ^ "History – Cinemabox & Unisoft Present Fantasia 2012". Archived from the original on June 28, 2018. Retrieved September 15, 2012.
  15. ^ "Imperial Cinéma". The Gazette. Montreal, Quebec. July 31, 2001. p. D8 – via
  16. ^ "Session 9". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  17. ^ "Session 9". Metacritic. Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  18. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (August 8, 2001). "Session 9". Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  19. ^ Travers, Peter (2001). "Session 9". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on November 28, 2012. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  20. ^ Thomas, Kevin (August 10, 2001). "Scary 'Session 9' Takes a Minimalist Approach". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  21. ^ "00's Retrospect: Bloody Disgusting's Top 20 Films of the Decade...Part 4". Bloody Disgusting. December 18, 2009. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012.
  22. ^ Gonzalez, Ed (July 30, 2001). "Session 9". Slant Magazine. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  23. ^ Koehler, Robert (August 6, 2001). "Session 9". Variety. Archived from the original on November 11, 2010.
  24. ^ Guthmann, Edward (September 14, 2001). "Film Clips / Also Opening Today". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco, California. Archived from the original on December 13, 2014.
  25. ^ Taubin, Amy (August 7, 2001). "The Shinings". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on October 13, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  26. ^ Kehr, David (August 10, 2001). "Film Review; Getting More Than They Bargained For When They Submitted the Low Bid". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Beierle, Chris (February 27, 2002). "Session 9: DVD Talk Review". DVD Talk. Archived from the original on January 16, 2020.
  28. ^ "Session 9". Shout! Factory. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  29. ^ Carruthers, Sean. "Session 9 – Original Soundtrack : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved September 15, 2012.


  • Datlow, Ellen; Windling, Terri (2003). The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Sixteenth Annual Collection. New York City, New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-31425-6.
  • Schwarz, Heike (2014). Beware of the Other Side(s): Multiple Personality Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder in American Fiction. Bielefeld, Germany: transcript Verlag. ISBN 978-3-839-42488-9.

External links[edit]