Tuesday 22 March 2011

Session 9 (2001)

SESSION 9 is an American psychological horror movie that was directed by Brad Anderson and stars David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Steven Gevedon, Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton III and Paul Guilfoyle.  It's about a small firm of industrial cleaners who are hired to remove asbestos from a derelict asylum and find that a malevolent force may be lingering there.  In other words, it's a haunted house movie.

It's not bad actually although you do wonder in this post-SCREAM world quite how a bunch of grown men can be quite so unaware of how not to behave when working in a derelict asylum.  It's an interesting question actually because cinema has, by and large, moved away from the high gothic horror film, as practised by Universal and Hammer, towards a greater degree of realism, as far as that is possible.  So we get films like this one, which doesn't feature mad scientists or heroic professors but a group of blue collar industrial cleaners.  We learn about their personal lives, their foibles and so on, to make them appear credible.  And yet they still behave as if in this ostensibly 'real' world they inhabit, they've never seen a horror movie: they split up, they wander off by themselves, they leave important things behind, they forget mobile phones, they wear headphones while digging aroung derelict asylums in the middle of the night.

It must be a problem for directors: on the one hand, they are trying to create a believable world so we go along with the film, but on the other hand they need their characters to do stupid things in order to get them into perilous situations.  You can't, unless you're making a spoof like SCREAM, have a character say "I'm not going down there!  It looks spooky!" and avoid anything vaguely nasty looking because you wouldn't have a horror movie, you'd have a health and safety video.

Idiotic behaviour notwithstanding, I quite enjoyed it.  The asylum is a great horror location: flooded rooms, dripping walls, underground tunnels, spiral staircases, the whole bit.  The cast is pretty good too - everyone's favourite Glaswegian Marxist, Peter Mullan, is totally believable as the head of the firm, as is David Caruso as his foreman.

Peter Mullan (L) and David Caruso
It seems a long time ago now that David Caruso was a massive TV star on NYPD Blue and looked set to make the jump to movie stardom.  Unfortunately, his first big movie - William Friedkin's JADE (1995) - totally stiffed and his film career never really recovered.  He's now back on TV in one of the ubiquitous CSI type shows.  It's a shame because he's a charismatic guy and a fine actor.

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