When an asbestos abatement crew, led by Gordon Fleming (Peter Mullan) gets a gig to clean up an abandoned mental asylum, they think they’ve struck it rich. Promised a $10,000 bonus if they can finish in a week, the team of Phil (David Caruso), Mike (Stephen Gevedon), Hank (Josh Lucas), and Jeff (Brendan Sexton, III) dig right in. As Gordon and his team work, each of them reacts to the pressure of the deadline differently.
“Gordon, are you in there?”
Gordon, we learn, owns the company and is under a great deal of financial strain. He’s also a new dad and hasn’t slept well since his daughter was born. Phil, Gordon’s right hand man, questions Gordon’s accepting the short timeline. Phil’s trouble is that his girlfriend just left him for Hank, making the friends’ relationship a tiny bit awkward. Mike, a law school dropout, is highly intelligent, but at sea about his future. Jeff, Gordon’s nephew, is young and a little goofy, but earnest. He clearly wants to impress his uncle. Now that we’ve met the men, we understand them better when they start to unravel.
“Here, let me get that eyelash.”
Filmed at the former Danvers State Mental Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts, SESSION 9 has a great, creepy vibe and the setting, complete with scary treatment rooms, peeling paint, and puddles of stagnant water works a treat.
Director, Brad Anderson, has a talent for showing us just enough to follow the story, but not quite enough to predict how it will end. There are some lovely red herrings and the dialogue makes sense. Anderson and Stephen Gevedon wrote the screenplay and the cast even gets the accents right. Uta Briesewitz’s cinematography kept the eerie mood even without 392 jump scares. Music by Climax Golden Twins sets the dark tone of the film well. I had never heard of them, but their strange, atmospheric music is perfect in SESSION 9.
Director, Brad Anderson might have watched THE HAUNTING once or twice.
I have wanted to see SESSION 9 for ages and I’m glad I finally did. It’s a frightening horror tale with good acting and an intriguing story. I wanted to know more. It’s original, but not completely new and that’s all right. In my notes I wrote, THE SHINING, but with asbestos. While I can see comparisons, (days of the week on screen, evil place, etc…) it doesn’t diminish the effect of the film at all. Paul Guilfoyle and Larry Fessenden round out the supporting cast. Actually, the whole cast is made up of character actors. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. It’s a natural ensemble piece played by a talented ensemble.
Weird note: Carson Daly (Mr. MTV) was the executive music producer.
Tonight on Club MTV…
Last night, Friday the 13th, my teenager and I watched Kevin Bacon get an arrow through the throat under the stars. As a part of the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s After Midnite film series, the theatre, in conjunction with the Trustees of Reservations presented a double-feature in the open air. At Rocky Woods Reservation in Medfield, Massachusetts, cinemaphiles brought lawn chairs and blankets and gathered in forty-degree weather to watch FRIDAY THE 13TH and JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI in the woods. There were bonfires and hot cocoa and popcorn and Jason. Yes, I said Jason, and not just on the screen either. As a part of the transformation from a lovely park full of hiking trails and a pond (where I skated as a child) to Camp Crystal Lake, the Coolidge arranged for the big man himself to show up for photo ops and to menace the audience.
What a trip! A Boston Burger Company food truck made burgers and fries for the audience of Jason devotees who devoured them and the films. We laughed at the cutoffs and suspenders and jumped at the axes to the face and other creative bits of violence and had a great time. I’m impressed with how smoothly everything ran and with how well the film looked in an outdoor venue on a windy night with real leaves falling in front of the screen. Whoever came up with this idea needs a raise. What an entertaining night!
My teen getting a trim from the master.
Phew! I made it. For a month, this has been my life. “After work, I will stop for groceries, pick up my small/not small person, walk the dog, make dinner, watch a movie, write a review, and possibly, sleep. Oh man. I’d better do a load of laundry or we’ll be wearing bathing suits under our clothes tomorrow.”
I challenged myself to write 31 pieces for my blog this month. One for every day of my favorite month. I tried it last year, but I’m not sure how far I got. I think I wrote 14 or 15. That’s not bad, but this time I did it. I must say, I’m proud of myself. I didn’t cure a disease or discover a new planet or anything, but I set a goal and accomplished it. I discovered a few things too.
- Writing every day makes my mind more nimble. If someone at work asked, “What’s another word for x?” I’d come up with three in an instant. I’m usually pretty good at that, but I did notice a difference.
- I had to make time to write.
- I like anthology horror films.
- Writing so many reviews made me branch out. I watched films I might not have if not for deadlines looming every day.
- I’m a bit bleary-eyed right now.
- My online friends were wonderfully supportive. Thanks!!
So here’s my final list.
- Picture Mommy Dead (1966)
- Homicidal (1961)
- Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
- The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
- The Houses October Built (2014)
- From Beyond the Grave (1974)
- The 7th Victim (1943)
- Archivo 253 (2015)
- And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)
- V/H/S: Viral (2014)
- I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
- Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
- Don’t Blink (2014)
- Scream of Fear (1961)
- The Gorgon (1964)
- Monster-a Go Go (1965)
- Ravenous (1999)
- Pontypool (2008)
- Helter Skelter (1976)
- Asylum (1972)
- Saw (2004)
- The Deliberate Stranger (1986)
- Housebound (2014)
- Dead of Night (1945)
- Ghost Adventures: Clown Motel and Goldfield High School (2015)
- Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985)
- The Village (2004)
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
- Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
- House on Haunted Hill (1959)
- Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965)
Thanks for coming! Please enjoy a hot towel.
Ahhh Amicus. I love your sordid little anthology films. Just seeing the names Milton Subotsky, Max Rosenberg, and Freddie Francis makes me smile. The funny little touches, the simple linking story, and the superb casts combine to entertain me more than any other horror films of the period. Maybe it’s my short attention span, but I love these stories.
“Read ’em and weep, gentlemen!”
In DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS, six men meet in a train car. One of them, Dr. W.R. Schreck (Peter Cushing) has a set of tarot cards and claims he can tell the future of anyone who taps his deck three times. Schreck, which in German means terror, reads three cards for each man to tell his fortune, a fourth to determine his fate, then a fifth, which will divine whether or not the man can alter his future.
“Tarot this, Dr. T!”
In the first story, Werewolf, architect, Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum) travels to a remote island in Scotland to renovate his old house. While exploring the basement, Dawson finds a coffin full of Count Cosmo Valdemar. One of Dawson’s ancestors killed Valdemar hundreds of years ago and the Count holds grudges…even after he’s dead. Apparently, Valdemar is coming back to life as a werewolf. Dawson knows his stuff so he melts down a silver cross to make anti-werewolf bullets. Things don’t go as planned.
“I’ll make a mint with this on Antiques Roadshow.”
Creeping Vine tells the story of a robot that eats children. Actually, it tells the story of a creeping vine. I can’t put anything past you. This is no ordinary ivy plant. This vine is a killer. Even the marvelous Bernard Lee can’t stop it. All I can say is the British are too polite. A little well-place poison or a flamethrower would do wonders. This part has a cool ending.
“Enough with the Miracle Grow already!”
Voodoo involves a trumpet player in a jazz quintet, Biff Bailey (Roy Castle) who hears a cool tune while visiting the West Indies. He decides to steal the song and call it his own. The people who actually wrote the song don’t like it.
“A little auto-tune and this’ll be huge!”
Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee), who isn’t buying any of Dr. Terror’s tarot tales, stars in The Disembodied Hand. In this segment, Lee plays a nasty art critic who insults the artwork of Eric Landor (Michael Gough). Landor makes a fool of Marsh and then taunts him relentlessly. Marsh has no sense of humor so he runs Landor over with his car. Hands go missing and soon Marsh is getting an unexpected back rub while driving. This almost never ends well.
Digits roasting on an open fire…
The last story, Vampire, stars Donald Sutherland as Dr. Bob Carroll. Dr. Carroll moves back to his New England hometown with his new wife, Nicole (Jennifer Jayne) to start a practice there. A series of mysterious illnesses and deaths convince Carroll to look for a vampire. After consulting with the other town doctor, Dr. Blake (Max Adrian), the men decide to take action. I love the twisty ending to this tale.
“I don’t think we covered this in medical school.”
As in most of the Amicus portmanteau films, we switch back to the linking story between segments and at the end. The template, laid out in DEAD OF NIGHT (1945) works here. This was the first of the Amicus anthologies and it’s fun. The pace drags in parts, but the last two segments and the linking parts make up for it. Also, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing!
Yes, it’s us.