Posted on Tuesday, August 10th, 2021 by Marisa Mirabal
Underrated indie horror film Session 9 celebrates its 20th anniversary today. Writer/director Brad Anderson and co-writer Stephen Gevedon reminisced on the film’s release and teased at ideas for the future.
Released in 2001, Session 9 stood out among other horror films of the early 2000s like Scream and Final Destination. To celebrate its cult status and longevity, FANGORIA interviewed Anderson and Gevedon about the film’s misdirected marketing campaign, memorable scenes, and potential future.
Fear is a Place
If you aren’t familiar, Session 9 follows an asbestos abatement crew who accepts a clean-up job at an abandoned mental asylum. Under a strict timeline to complete the task, the crew’s emotions grow increasingly tense while working under physically dangerous conditions. Oh, and there’s mysterious stuff happening around them since they are in an abandoned mental hospital, after all. The film’s title refers to a series of audio-taped sessions with a former patient that are played alongside the crew’s experiences. However, things are not as they seem, and the story takes a shocking turn at the end. Gevedon and Anderson found inspiration for the film from a grisly murder case in 1995 with details that I’ll just leave for you here. The film stars David Caruso (CSI: Miami), Brendan Sexton III (Boys Don’t Cry), Josh Lucas (Ford v. Ferrari), Peter Mullan (War Horse, Top of the Lake), and Gevedon himself.
Despite the film’s release not being very profitable, Session 9 has become a cult classic. After its August 10th release in 2001, it ended its American theatrical run in October and only grossed a total of $378,176. However, it received more acclaim abroad and earnings of $1.2 million internationally. Anderson stated, “it’s a kind of movie that’s specific to a type of viewer, one that’s looking for [what’d now be considered] ‘elevated horror’.” He expressed that they wanted to go against the standard horror trends at the time and do “something that genuinely gets under your skin and has that sense of dread that we were after, something creepy.”
The duo is still trying to make something creepy but this time as a sequel called Session 1. Anderson explained:
“The general gist of the story was that it’d be about Mary Hobbes, the character in the original movie who’s on the tapes and who has these alternate personalities and who would ultimately realize she killed her family on Christmas Day. Here we’d learn the entire Mary Hobbes story — how she went from being a fairly normal 12-year-old girl in 1959 and ’58 to slaughtering her whole family, and why. Our story was gonna be kind of a portrait of madness through the eyes and the lens of that little girl in the late ’50s, early ‘60s. It’s called Session 1. The movie ended with the first session, which would then become a series of sessions that this girl would go through, and ultimately would lead to Session 9.”
Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, unfortunately, there is a hold-up because Focus Films owns the rights to Session 9 and turned down the treatment. Their legal contract states that they do not do prequels or sequels to the properties that they own. Therefore, Anderson and Gevedon were denied despite the zero financial investment needed from Focus.
Breakin’ the Law
I can only imagine how infuriating this kind of news is for filmmakers. You make a movie, it has a cult following, and you have a cool follow-up idea years later to revive a story but the decision is tied up in a legal loophole despite it being over your art. Anderson stated in the interview that there is no ill will, and it’s just an unfortunate setback. He still maintains hope that Session 1 can be made someday.
I hope it does, too, and perhaps Focus Films will come around on the idea.
Session 9 is an underrated gem and was ahead of its time in terms of atmospheric and psychological horror. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. If you have seen it, watch it again and recommend it to your friends. The film is streaming on Shudder, YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Vudu. Maybe luck will change and we can all return to the asylum one day to hear Mary Hobbes’ story.
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