Sometimes I just want a good mindfuck. Something that doesn’t worry about special effects and chest-booming action, but psychological chills. I love the small budget, hidden gems- especially from the early 2000s. There was a massive boom of director brilliance just without huge budgets and production help. I don’t need those things to get into a movie. Some of my favorites, in fact, are small budget indy films. For these types of movies, the plot is what matters anyway. Take, for example, Session 9 that got added to Netflix recently. It’s one I’ve seen before, but I revisited lately and am dying to write about. Moviegoers beware there will be spoilers, but if you’re confused about Gordon and his pseudo alter ego Simon, then strap in because this one is a doozy.
Session 9 is an incredible psychological thriller. It’s intensely unsettling, and I find it much scarier than your typical jump scare-fest. The real reason this movie will always be in my mind is the endless calisthenics your brain will have to do to try and figure out just what the hell went on both in Gordon’s mind and what parts of the film were actually real.
A crew of asbestos cleanup men is hired to remove all hazardous materials from a defunct mental hospital. The facility in question is real. It is the Danvers State Mental Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts. It is so real very little was added to the set design. 95% of what you see in Session 9 was as it when filming started. The setting is as much a character as the living people. Gordon, played by Peter Mullan of Westworld, Phil, everyone’s favorite sunglass-wearing Miami CSI, Mike, portrayed by Stephen Gevedon from The Deuce, and Hank, deliciously handsome Josh Lucas starring in the upcoming movie She Dies Tomorrow is the four-person crew tasked with an almost impossible job. When one of the men, Gordon, finds old session tapes from one of the patients, he descends into madness. One by one, the crew are killed until only one remains.
Was It All In Gordon’s Head?
At first glance, it may seem like everything was just in Gordon’s head. Hints like Phil yelling at him to wake up and his endless calls to his wife that never makes it through make it seem like there is no true link to the outside world. Phil would be just his subconscious telling him to snap out of it and come back to the real world. And the story of Mary and her many personalities is his brain’s way of explaining the catastrophe that occurred at home- killing them all that is.
Hell, all of his crew could be Gordon’s own versions of Princess and Billy. At one point he does call Mike Princess further blurring the lines of reality and fiction. If they don’t exist, Gordon never killed anyone but his own personalities leaving him with his original self and the knowledge that in a fit he murdered his family and has been hiding out at a crumbling mental facility for no reason for days.
If this were true, that would tie everything up with a cute little bow. Simon’s last monologue, that mind you doesn’t come from one of the tapes, simply from Gordon’s mind, tells him that a bit of Simon lives within everyone. Some people are just better at keeping him hidden than others. It would also make sense that this alternate reality takes place at a psyche ward that is supposed to help people with their disorders. I mean, who cares about the asbestos in a building that’s already partly demolished? Location location location…
What We See Might Be Real.
I’m not one to shy away from a less complicated telling of the story, but not one I don’t think is right. Rather than this all happening in Gordon’s mind, I believe this, for the most part, everything happens. Hank tells us that Gordon has been stressed and that stress is taking a considerable toll. So there is reason to believe he is cracking under pressure and takes it out on his family and crew.
Simon Made Him Do It.
But its also reasonable to assume that Gordon was just easy pickings for Simon. “ I live in the weak and wounded Doc.” Near the beginning, Simon even speaks to Gordon, giving him a cheerful hello as Gordon stares at Mary’s old wheelchair. This theory also explains a lot of Gordon’s behavior. We find out later that he killed his family the same day he sets foot within the asylum. Additionally, Gordon seems to seek out Mary in several ways after listening to her tapes, sitting above her grave, and of course, Gordon posts his photos up in Mary’s old room. Once is chance, twice is coincidence, third time is a pattern. The only real question is, did Simon make him kill, or did the evil already in Gordon cause Simon to seek him out?
Princess and Billy are “subtly” linked with innocence and protection as Mike’s crazed drawings point out. All of Mary’s personality’s invade Gordon. Therefore Gordon isn’t entirely Simon, and thus he knows something he did was wrong. That makes him think he has to apologize to his wife, Wendy, but not enough to know that she is already gone. Each of the personalities is compartmentalized enough to remember bits and pieces of the big picture but not see the complete reality with the exception of Simon.
One Last Crazy Theory
One last theory and one I believe is the correct one is that Gordon was a previous resident at the asylum. This means that when he hears Simon say, “Hello Gordon,” he was just reliving a past memory. This would make sense as Gordon doesn’t run away after hearing it as I’m I sure would have. Gordon seems to know a lot more about the building than he lets on.
Towards the beginning, Gordon leads ahead of the tour guy. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable in that place, let alone lead the way. This also explains his obsession with Mary, Mary’s grave, and room 444. Maybe he also spent time in that room? Mary and Gordon might be the same person. A shot of Mary’s room shows a faded baby picture of a little girl that looks eerily like Gordon’s own infant child.
Strangely 444 is an angel number. Typically it means you have nothing to fear if you are on your life’s mission. Angels surround you and help in your endeavor. In Gordon’s case, maybe the angels are fallen? If Mary and the gang are reaching out to Gordon, they could be attempting to set him on his path of deadly destruction. If he has had mental illness in the past, it explains his breakdown as he revisits the sight of his personal sessions. His job pushing him back to this place and already having loads of stress financially and at home could have shipped him off crazy island population one.
Love them, hate them, or believe them, theories surrounding Session 9 are a dime a dozen. Just as Simon points out, there is a little Simon in us all. Let’s hope most of us keep our inner demons locked up. You can stream Session 9 on Netflix or PVOD almost everywhere right now.
Obsessed with the old gods and everything that resembles Lovecraft, Zach spends his days exploring the twists of horror films and can’t wait to discuss the latest explanations of any story