Most horror films are filmed in the safety of a Hollywood soundstage or a building that resembles the spiritually disturbed space. The Amityville Horror didn’t drag the cast in crew into the real estate that was a portal to Hell. The apartments in Rosemary’s Baby weren’t rented by a Satanic cult. Session 9 brought cast and crew into the abandoned Danvers State Mental Hospital in Massachusetts. Not only were they exposed to the real life bumps and creaks, they had to be careful to not breath into the asbestos that was part of the plot. Session 9 is a great blue collar frightfest.
Gordon Fleming (Shallow Grave‘s Peter Mullan) has landed a contract for his asbestos removal company to clean out a few spaces in a decaying mental hospital. He gets together a crew that includes Hulk‘s Josh Lucas, CSI: Miami David Caruso & Welcome to the Dollhouse‘s Brendon Sexton III. They have five days to grab a bonus. Early into scraping off the lung cancerous substance, they become distracted by the asylum. They hear stories of what happened to the patients including one woman, Mary Hobbes. One of the crew finds the reel to reel tapes from when a therapist tapped into her various personalities. Slowly it seems the troubled crew is losing their minds. The fear quickly sets in that beside blowing the speed bonus, nobody might not survive the gig.
The film was rather revolutionary when it was made back in 2001 having been shot 24 fps HD video. The ability to go without 35mm paid off in allowing the building to exist on its own terms instead of being recreated so giant lights could illuminate the scene. The peeling paint makes everything look haunted. The cast has a scared look in their eyes as they run around the huge labyrinth inside the building. There’s no need to ask them what they thought about to look so scared. It’s more about what nice thoughts they had to keep them from running out of the building screaming. Session 9 wasn’t a major hit, but has grown in stature thanks to home video. This Blu-ray edition with a extraordinary bonus features will only insure more people can feel how a job can drive you nuts.
The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The HD video transfer brings out the creepy elements of the dying asylum. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The bumps and breathing masks make things quite eerie to the ears. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary with director Brad Anderson has him talk about how Kubrick influenced elements in the film. He didn’t even know it at the time that was his big visual reference.
Return to Danvers: The Secrets of Session 9 (48:57) recounts how Brad Anderson, crew and cast went into a real decaying sanitarium to get a truly scary feeling. Everyone has a feeling that they were not merely imagining fright on the location. Anderson talks about how few props and set dressing they did.
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (20:13) has Sean Clark visit the former mental hospital that’s now been turned into fancy apartments. Luckily he has old video he shot in 2004 when he visited the place. It still looks like the movie set. Clark once more proves an essential bonus feature on Scream Factory releases giving fans a deeper look at the locations. He helps you decide if its worth a vacation trip.
Deleted Scenes and Alternate Endings (9:40) features optional director’s commentary to let you know why it was sliced away. Mostly the subplot dealt with a homeless woman lurking in the shadows that might be the real source of the killing. She figured into the alternate ending.
Story to Screen (10:01) breaks down a scene with storyboards, behind the scenes video, alternate takes and the finished moment.
The Haunted Palace (12:54) is how the filmmakers came to touch the ghosts of Danvers hospital. This seems to have been made to promote the original release.
Theatrical Trailer (1:53) sets up the asbestos crew working in the asylum.
Scream Factory presents Session 9. Directed by: Brad Anderson. Screenplay by: Brad Anderson & Stephen Gevedon. Starring: David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas & Brendan Sexton III. Running Time: 100 minutes. Rated: R. Released: August 16, 2016.