Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Session 9

Was in the mood for a scary movie tonight, so Scott suggested Session 9, a psychological horror flick centered on a team of (interestingly) asbestos removers as they work in an abandoned insane asylum. First off, major props for making asbestos part of a horror film in an abandoned building. Realism ftw. The building they were working in was pretty damn cool too. It sorta set my inner archivist alive with the desire to salvage mental patient records (which could never be opened to the  public anyway, but meh). Municipal archives were also mentioned in the movie. So, props for that too. 

The main character was inexplicably Irish (?). His best friend was named Phil, this guy: 

Session 9

Who you may better recognize as this guy: 

CSI Miami

I know, I know, CSI to asbestos remover is a hard mental leap to make, but if you squint real hard, you can almost see the similarities between the two characters.

Moving on, the movie had a number of elements which make psychological horror one of my favorite genres. The cinematography was great, the setting suitably eerie, the characters just realistic enough (I especially loved mullet kid), the subplots twisty and leaving you hungry for more,  the background music just subtle enough to keep you on edge, and a nice slow buildup. 

However, the movie was also lacking a major element which I think is in some ways essential to pulling off good psych horror (she says pedantically). That is the potential for a supernatural alternative, to keep the audience guessing. It was made quite clear throughout the film that nothing supernatural could possibly be happening in the abandoned mental institution. I mean, for gossakes, when the lights flickered and the power went out, we were shown the generator running out of gas. No mystery there. I think it is important that psych horror have some *potential* for the supernatural to be there. . .bizarre hallucinations, tales of hauntings, weird reflections in mirrors as a red herring for the audience. Without that, the only challenge is in figuring out who's psyche we are inside of (in the case of Session 9, we are given ample and obvious clues, so even that mystery is taken from us), and once that has been discovered, all that is left is to lay money down on who will be the first and the last to die, and how the deaths will occur. Once again, props to Session 9 for the murder method, very cool. 

Given that the two biggest "mysteries" of psych horror were given away fairly early on (the reality of the situation, and whodunit), the subplots took precedence, as with the unraveling of the story of one of the former inmates of the asylum, or the bizarre love triangle between Phil, Hank, and Amy. I would almost like to see the story of the former inmate as its own movie. Shit was creepy. The slow tension buildup was well done, though the payoff in terms of gore at the end was a little disappointing. However, overall, I liked the way the movie dealt with psychotic meltdown, and how it is perceived both by the one undergoing it, and those around him. That part was very well done, and it seemed fairly well researched by the writer. 

Another interesting note: Women are completely absent in the real time of this film. They exist only as flashbacks, on the other end of the phone, or in conversation. I'm sure there's some sort of deeper meaning in there, but I'm not sure what it is. 

So, overall, not the best psych horror I've seen in terms of scare factor, but if you're going for realism in setting, story, and mental illness, this might be a good place to look.  

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