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Session 9

Starring David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas, Peter Mullan and Brendan Sexton III
Written by Brad Anderson and Stephen Gevedon
Directed by Brad Anderson

IN SHORT: A great build towards a let down ending. At least for us. [Rated R for language and brief strong violence. 100 minutes]

Session 9 fits into that category of "classic" horror film. A slow build in a location that carries its own history of awful stuff. A unique method of killing. A perfect build to an ending that leaves lots of bodies on the floor.

Hazmat Elimination Company ("asbestos removal 'R' Us") is fighting for its corporate life. Company head Gordon Fleming (Peter Mullan), a Scotsman who has a newborn with his American wife needs to win a lucrative contract to keep the money flowing to his men, his company, and his family. The job he is bidding on, to clean up a long abandoned mental hospital (formerly a loonie bin to all of us who don't give two bits about political correctness) will take three weeks to safely complete, though his foreman Phil (David Caruso) says it can be done in two. Gordon makes a side deal with the contractor Bill Griggs (Paul Guilfoyle) to get the building spic and span in a week. To manage the job he adds inexperienced labor -- Gordon's goof-off nephew Jeff (Brendan Sexton III) and a visually sleazy dude named Hank (Josh Lucas) -- who'll work fast and cheap. Last man on the crew is Mike (Stephen Gevedon), who needs the cash to stake a desire to go to law school.

The building being cleansed is one of those old wrecks that was walked away from years earlier but, for unexplained reasons, there is still plenty of working equipment in Danvers State Mental Hospital. Cabinets filled with old case files which were sealed but never carted away to storage. Tape recorders and reels of audio tape. This is what Mike finds and, while he should be working, he spends all his free time listening to audiotaped sessions of a girl suffering from multiple personalities. There are nine sessions with the girl and Mike works his way up the line. Thus the title.

What we knew of Session 9, co-written by Gevedon with director Brad Anderson, was that it hoped to be a horror/thriller flick in the classic mode. Simply, an edge of your seat gripper that doesn't fall back on the far too easy sudden shock of sharp pointy things piercing delicate body parts, accompanied by huge arcs of gushing blood. Films like this are among the hardest to write. Like great dramatic movies, they must have strongly developed characters with deep backgrounds that are simple enough that the audience can fill in all that it needs to without feeling like (we're) doing all the creative work. The hard part is to build tension and suspense as a mysterious killer takes out one character after another -- with a cast this small you've only got to lose one or two to set up the situation -- and still keep us guessing as to who is doing the killing and why.

Gevedon and Anderson have almost delivered the complete package in their film -- it almost hurts to write that we didn't like the way they chose to wrap the who dunnit and why. Up until they lost us, they had us locked in good. Great characters; some scum and some innocent victims, some potentially murdered and some just conveniently disappeared. We'll set you up and leave the decision on spending the cash up to you.

And that being said, sometimes the best and most horrific visuals are the ones that have no bloodshed in them at all. There's one towards the end of Session 9 and it's a bellringer.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Session 9, he would have paid . . .


Take a date. See if you get swept deeper in than we did. Based on the amount of e-mail we get, most of which begins "Cranky, you stupid old fart...," there are enough of you GenX'ers out there who should gobble this sucker down, complaining only that there is not nearly enough blood and body piercing for your tastes.

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