Creeeeeepy. It was this or House of the Devil, but I really think this is an under-rated little horror classic.
One of the first shot-on-digital flicks, Session 9 is bone simple: some guys get paid to pull asbestos out of an old mental hospital. The smart-ass of the group finds some recorded therapy sessions, and decides to throw them on the reel-to-reel during lunch breaks. (As one does.)
As the confessions of a sad, broken MPD patient from the 50's spools out into the darkness, at first you think he's unravelling a mystery, and then you think it's a ghost story ... and then it turns into something a lot worse than a ghost story.
It's a hell of a cast -- David Caruso, Josh Lucas, and Peter Mullan. ( I mean, Mullan's just sublime.) Brad Anderson's early in his career here, and for any of you shooting on a budget, it's worth seeing what he managed to pull off with the video equipment of ten frikkin' years ago. He takes great advantage of the heavy grain in the blacks, using it to evoke exactly the ambiguous blur the human eye deals with in shadow. There are things in the edge of the frame you can't quite make out, things that modern digital would make too clean. You really, really need to watch this one in the dark. It's the only way to truly appreciate some of the subtlety in the composition. A little screen glare would shank a few of the better moments.
Without the ability to do fancy camera bullshit, Anderson makes every shot count. Perfectly composed frames slide, never jerk over to something you'd rather not know about. But the main thing is the audio. A soundtrack that picks at your nerves. The insect buzz of a hot summer day, the grind of the machinery. Those voices. The personalities of the long-dead patient roll out on the tinny audiotape, one by one, getting progressively more disturbing. Until ...
... well, until you realize it's a trap, not just for them, but for you, the viewer. You were waiting for the bogeyman to show up to the party, and a bit too late you find he's the host and you've had way too much of this odd-tasting punch and-maybe-its-timetoliedownSHITITSTOOLATE.
Anyone who doesn't dig this also didn't like or get Robert Wise's The Haunting because you never see any ghosts. There, that's all I'll say, anything else would be a spoiler. Just watch the damn thing, at about midnight, for a perfect little creepfest. The last speech is still one of my favorite of any movie, ever.
Session 9 is your Netflix Instant Streaming recommend for this weekend. In the Comments, toss me your favorite underrated horror movie.