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By Steve Anderson | September 16, 2002

Every so often, there’s a movie that comes along that is both scary and suspenseful, that doesn’t require huge amounts of blood and mock-satanic rituals to do its job. And when one of those come along, I’m rather pleased with it. Session 9 is one of those movies.

The DVD menu is kind of interesting, actually. Strange sounds of tape recorders running backwards and distortion on the screen text typeface make for a rather eerie opening, giving you that certain sense that something will be very wrong in the relatively near future.

What we’ve got here is the story of a mental hospital closed for almost twenty years, and the assorted strange goings-on inside the now-abandoned hulk. And what a hulk it is, too. This monstrous Victorian-era building staring out over the tree covered countryside like some kind of dark cult leader waving the kool-aid and screaming about “my babies.” The inside walls, on the other hand, are in pretty sad shape. Covered with graffiti of various types, everything from obscene suggestions to strange pictures of people to even a couple of pentagrams.

The former mental hospital also has a lot of history–assorted evil rituals and baby-eating whatnot.

And all this assorted business adds up to some very nasty things lurking inside the mental hospital.

A group of fellows are sent in to clean the place up so it can be restored and used for some reason or another, they don’t really say very clearly, but what they find in that building is something else. Like reel-to-reel tape recordings describing horrifying events from Christmases past…described by a patient with multiple personality disorder. And almost in the background, we’ve got five guys on a cleaning crew, their lives and hopes intersecting on one giant scale with the haunted hospital in the foreground.

It’s all very psychologically haunting.

And man, are there creepy scenes in this! One of the best hits about an hour and fifteen minutes in, where the mystery is getting right to its thickest. The generator they’re using to provide lights and power to their equipment shuts down, and a tunnel lined with light bulbs just suddenly starts to shut down, one after the next.

This is the point when all hell breaks loose, and most of the mysteries get their solutions. They’re really nasty solutions, too. Frankly, the last half hour of Session 9 is scarier and more alarming than some entire movies I’ve seen.

The ending is also a real doozy. It not only is actually SCARIER than everything leading up to it, it’s also an excellent plot device, wrapping up all the unfinished loose ends.

The special features menu is surprisingly in depth, offering storyboards, commentary, a theatrical trailer, and a documentary called “The Haunted Palace,” which is an excellent look at the setting and how the filmmakers reached the decision to use this place in their film.

I’m amazed by the admission that this was in theatres. I had to go dig this factoid up on the IMDB, and it’s true. Session 9 had a limited theatrical engagement in the United States and, by all accounts, did fairly well at the box office. It made a profit, which is rare enough for this type of movie. But where it REALLY cleaned up was in Spain. That’s right, folks…you’re watching a movie that was the Spider Man 2 of Spain for a couple weeks.

Reel Advice-where you learn things you never thought you would or that you never even realized you wanted to know.

Also, there is a selection of deleted scenes and an alternate ending, which actually manages to be creepier than the original ending, if you can believe that.

So, all in all, Session 9 is a seriously creepy movie that manages to be part ghost story and part murder mystery all at once.

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