It’s weird. I have different genre preferences for different mediums. For books, I prefer fantasy; for films, horror; for music, moody folk. One thing I noticed about a lot of the art I love is that most people I know have never heard of it. But I’m not a hipster! This so isn’t working for me. How am I supposed to gush about how Vermillion Lies’ “Shark Serenade” is likely my freakin’ theme song and should probably be played at my funeral if no one I know has heard of it? I’m just going to have to share this stuff more, I’ve decided. So share I will, and I’m starting with a horror film because it was already on my list of stuff to write blogs about.
My first impression of Session 9 was that it probably had a low budget. And I was pretty sure it was going to be one of those films I mildly enjoy, easily predict, and then forget about a week or two later. I was wrong. Not about the budget. I mean it does look somewhat raw, but I think that might be a result of the digital filming, which is something I’m only used to seeing on home videos. It’s just that this movie refused to be what I thought it was going to be. And that’s what made it brilliant.
Two things you should know about Session 9: 1) It’s about a crew cleaning up asbestos in an old mental hospital, which is terrifying in itself because asbestos is scary; and 2) the movie was shot in an actual old, falling-apart, haunting-as-all-get-out mental hospital. So it has automatic win on atmosphere.
What do I love about Session 9? It’s subdued. It’s not about the deaths (though there are deaths because, come on, it’s a horror movie). It’s about the characters and the hospital, which I believe is a character in itself. It’s about the darkness that lies in all of us. It’s all-over mood and atmosphere. It takes its time, but it’s never boring. Just watch this scene and tell me it doesn’t give you shivers. That voice! It’s not like your usual monster voice, is it? There’s no mistaking that voice for the comparatively tender-hearted Freddy Kruger. The voice sounds human, although slightly distorted—warped even, which I’m sure was intentional.
The other thing I love about Session 9 is it actually acknowledged the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” panic of the 1980s, which made me swoon all over it like it was the most adorable puppy in the world. Most horror films perpetuate the idea that SRA was “for real, you guys, and that sort of thing is still prevalent today!” But Session 9 took the high road, discussed the kind of psychological abuse that resulted from the panic itself, and still managed to make a terrifying film. It didn’t thrive on ignorance, in other words. It managed to use the truth to its benefit.
Finally, though I went through the whole movie feeling fond, I didn’t actually adore it until the last line. One line—that’s all it took—and the whole story came into focus and rooted itself in my memory. That’s a pretty powerful piece of writing, and it’s only eight words. I won’t tell you what the line is, but you’ll know it when you hear it. Oh, you definitely will.
So see Session 9 if you like slow-burning, atmospheric, intelligent horror. While it may not be quite as polished as some of the films I fawn over, it’s not like anything you’ve ever seen before. And you will remember it. I promise.