Session 9

Session 9 is a really interesting movie for me. I liked the twist of events, but it all happened too slowly. I know it’s necessary to build up the story, but it still appeared a bit draggy for me. I was bored during the first half of the film almost put me to sleep. They could’ve made it a bit more exciting in the first scenes to keep the audience hanging on.

This film has a unique storytelling format. The tapes Mike found served as the narration of he story. The case of Mary mirrored what was happening to them at that moment. The filmmakers made it clear that there was indeed an analogy going on. It was seen by the way they featured each of the characters during the narration. They were deliberately matching the different personalities possessing Mary to the characters. Despite of that obvious analogy at first, it still got quite confusing in the end. Who killed whom? It was a close call between Gordon and Phil.

The asylum setting was sort of a give-away of what was going to happen. An asylum is a place for mad people; therefore, it’s not going to be a surprise if someone ends up being crazy. For me, it’s a bit cliché to have asylums as setting for psychological thrillers (e.g. The Crazies).

Instead of psychosis, this film revolved around a different mental disorder, which is multiple personality disorder. It was actually a nice break from all the mere psychotic films. Because of this, the hero also turned out to be the monster, and he wasn’t even aware of it. That’s something you don’t see everyday. This makes you wonder; whom would you side with, the hero or the monster? What if they were the same person? The audience is conflicted on how to feel towards the characters.

Who is Simon? He was the very reason this entire killing happened. He wasn’t just another one of Mary’s personalities. He seemed like a demonic possession. Simon is probably a representation of Satan. Simon said that he only refuges in the weak, in those who let him enter. Perhaps Gordon’s problems (money, marriage, and family) opened him up to temptation. He wasn’t strong enough to resist what was perpetrating him.

 

 

Session 9

The fact that David Caruso was in the movie made me feel weird the whole time because his acting remains the same for all the roles he takes for either television or film and it wasn’t easy to take him seriously. Despite this, Session 9 was a fun film for me, one that doesn’t really have to make me go through the whole process of thinking things over and over to enjoy the movie. It was interesting to watch the interaction of an all male cast with each other, and how they’re coping with each others’ personalities inside an abandoned building full of asbestos and a certain sense of dread with it being an old mental institution. Session 9 comes from a series of recordings discovered by one of the characters in the film of a person with a multiple personality disorder. What was creepy about it was that the person was able to convincingly change voices to man or a woman with relative ease. Initially, I thought that the main cause of the problem was the fact that the guys were working in a poisonous environment, but it was later revealed that Gordon held an evil personality in him, called Simon which encouraged him to carry out attacks against his own family and his co-workers. Simon said that he lived in the weak and the wounded and it was this phrase that became the turning point of the whole situation, making me think that all this time, one of the guys was the one committing the atrocities. I was disappointed however by the Mary Hobbes subplot, where they were discovering all sorts of artifacts and materials regarding her and her personalities but in the end, it didn’t really have a connection with Gordon’s story. Thus, it’s led me to believe that the fact that Simon was present in both Mary Hobbes and Gordon makes him more than an isolated personality as it actually shows itself to be a consciousness present in different people. Is he an evil spirit or an intangible being that could transmit himself through different mediums? That I wouldn’t know but the fact that this movie is a psychological horror film leads further credence to the possibility that the human mind is capable of things which are unnatural and plausible at the same time. The progression of the story in terms of the eventual reveal of the monster, or the satisfaction of my curiosity according to Noel Carroll was all over the place though. The story had too much weird stuff happening all at the same time that it was really hard to focus on a single person. For example, the conflict between Phil and Hank and Hank’s finding of hidden treasure made me distracted from time to time from the overall plot. The reveal of the killer wasn’t that satisfying but at least they reached that point in the end. Despite this, I loved the imagery and overall ambiance of the film, where it was enclosed, dark and silent all throughout. The imagery of the solitary chair that Gordon sees from time to time may also be a reflection of his state of mind, where it is afar from reality and the use of a mental patient’s chair already indicates that there’s something wrong.  Overall, it was still a fun movie and it was a fitting end for the Horror film class.

Session 9

Fear is a place.

And I couldn’t agree more. Fear, for me, is but in my head. My mind creates worlds where fear resides, where fear freely roams.

Man, watching Session 9 sure gave me goosebumps. Hearing the recordings of Mary Hobbes sent chills down my spine. It honestly scares me to think that there can be a number of personalities in one person, and that these personalities can range from being innocent and childlike to dark and menacing. Truth be told, I’d choose slasher films over psychological horror movies any day.

There’s really something about psychological horror movies that frighten me more than the other subgenres of horror. I think psychological horror movies scare me more because the effect these movies have on me last longer; it stays in my mind longer and haunts me even days after seeing the movie. Psychological horror movies aren’t the type of movies you just simply watch and forget. Somehow, whatever scares you while watching has the power to stay in your head and turn it into a playground.

Session 9 did scare me, but slowly. The way the story progressed was so slow that there was a time that I fell asleep while watching it, sorry. I fell asleep either because I was exhausted or because nothing much was happening until it was nearing the end. More of the latter than the former, I believe. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate how the story developed, I just had a problem with how long it took for the story to develop, for something big to happen.

What frightened me the most while watching Session 9 was the voices of the different personalities in Mary Hobbes and, as the story developed, in Gordon. It was really creepy hearing a number of people in one person. It’s scary to think that someone can go as far as killing another without even knowing it. It’s scary to think that it’s possible that Simon lives in all of us. After all, he lives in the weak and wounded. And everyone, I believe, has had a moment of weakness and a time wounded.

Session 9

“I live in the weak and the wounded, Doc.”

For our final session, we watched independent American horror film Session 9.To be honest, one of the first things that come to mind when I think about the movie is that Horatio wasn’t wearing his sunglasses. But that aside, like in A Tale of Two Sisters, Session 9 is also a psychological horror film that explored the horrors of the human psyche, and again with a focus on dissociative identity disorder. Another similarity would be how both films thrived on ambiguity. By the latter part it took quite an effort for me to piece together what was happening on the screen. It was all really confusing. At one point, I actually thought that Gordon was a patient in the asylum, which was abandoned only in his imagination, and all the events that had happened were mere projections of his mind. Then in the scene where Phil was telling Gordon to wake up, I thought that Gordon was undergoing some sort of hypnotherapy in real life, and that Phil was actually his doctor.

While listening to the recordings of Mary’s therapy sessions, I couldn’t help but recall this episode of Oprah I’ve seen which featured people afflicted with dissociative identity disorder. There was this woman Truddi Chase who had 92 distinct personalities on record. Then there was this other woman Kim Noble, and she had 21 personalities. From what I recall, the “people living inside” Kim included a gay man and a little girl.  Now these two women sounded exactly like Mary did. They changed their voices depending on which personality was taking over at the time and when asked where Kim or Truddi was, they’d say that they were asleep or away. And like Mary, both also had traumatic experiences at some point in their lives, which is why they had chosen to adopt multiple personalities. The closeness of the movie’s portrayal of someone afflicted with DID to reality just scares me.

Now Mike, upon finding the session tapes, undergoes the process of disclosure, discovery, proof, explanation, hypothesis, and confirmation that Noel Carroll had described. But our curiosity is aroused not just by what was happening to Mary, but also because of the characters and their internal and external conflicts. Most of the movie’s run indeed was spent fleshing out the personalities of each of the men in their team. This curiosity of ours keeps us glued to the screen even though it might cause discomfort or, in my case, one feels that the pacing can a bit too slow at times. But while the movie raises a lot of questions, almost all of them had been unanswered. In fact, the only thing that was established by the end of the film was that Gordon was insane, that while in his dissociative state he had murdered his wife and child and later his co-workers as well.  But what was up with Mary Hobbes? What made Gordon slip into insanity? And most importantly, what is Simon, exactly? I mean, it’s very unlikely that two people would share the exact same alternate personality. Is he some kind of supernatural entity or just another product of Gordon’s imagination? According to Noel Carroll, people watch horror films because they want to know more about the unknown. With all these unanswered questions, I could say that while my curiosity had kept my attention from lingering during the movie’s run, it also brought about my discontent when it ended. But I guess this ambiguity is a good thing, as it is more bound to leave a greater impression among viewers.

Session 9

Doctor: Where do you live, Simon?
Mary: I live in the weak… and the wounded.

Who would not creep out on that spine-tingling ending? I have always liked psychological thrillers because there is always something to wait to unfold. Gothika, The Orphan, A Tale of Two Sisters, Shelter among others. I know that there is something to wait for in the end, but this doesn’t lessen the interest in me even if I know that there’s something to expect. I just want to know what that is, and it still serves its purpose. Just as good as I never expected it at all. I just love watching films like these that make use of the setting efficiently in both driving out certain points and giving out some chills. For instance, the repetitive screenshots of the chair. It looked so much like an electric chair for me that is being used for executing people and definitely adds on the feeling.

Session 9 has the basic elements of horror films that authors such as Robin Wood pointed out and was discussed in the course. Simon, whom we can simply put as the monster of the film, can only be found within the depths of one’s being. His existence remains to be unnoticed not until something, an event or any other stimulus actually triggers his breaking out from the box of repression that’s keeping him. Taking a look from this perspective and on how it was presented in the film, there seems to be a very thin line between sanity and insanity. And the way how Mary and Gordon experience the same case, it is worth recognizing that there exists a Simon in each and everyone of us. We prefer him to remain hidden, whether we recognize him or not as we fully understand that letting him out is an actual rebellion against the structured norm. Thus the horror film element of Session 9. We see how this repressed entity, Simon, exists and would come out from its shelter when triggered and how horrifying this rise of the repressed can be.

It is also quite interesting to note how Simon lived in the personalities of Mary, obviously a woman, and Gordon, a limp. They both quite possess identities that of less of a man or for Gordon’s case who is a man, that of less of an ideal man. There seems to be an obvious representation of the rise of the oppressed. It was through Simon, a character that lives in them, that they were able to borrow strength to fight off and for once stand up from the oppression of being a woman, in Mary’s case, and a limp, in Gordon’s.

It’s not the first time that I’ve watched a film which plot is highly inspired by mental asylums or something similar to that. Gothika for instance, even Grave Encounters have references on mental asylums as it is one if not the most remarkable place to find oppressed people. People who lost their minds. And by simply looking at them, their stories, how they were placed there, how do they behave towards other people are easy enough to present as part of the horror genre. Robin Wood said it best, “the actual dramatization of the dual concept of the repressed/the Other, in the figure of the Monster. One might say that the true subject of the horror genre is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilization represses or oppresses, its re-emergence dramatized, as in our nightmares, as an object of horror, a matter for terror, and the happy ending (when it exists) typically signifying the restoration of repression”. We love to keep the order that is running our society for so long. Crazy people must be confined in mental asylums for support and treatment. And we rather keep it like that so much that we have grown in ourselves the collective nightmare of the breaking down of this proper order of things. So as long as there are the weak, the wounded, the oppressed, there will always be horror.

Session 9

Session 9 was one of the films I enjoyed most in class. The whole film revolved around the life of a certain Mary Hobbes. She was said to have been confined in the same mental asylum being cleaned out by the crew. Of course, her character (whose case seemed to have been being re-lived), was left to your imagination. This is one concept I loved most about the movie; there was no concrete image of Mary, aside from a picture that of course did not reveal anything about her illness at all.

Old recordings of Mary revealed three personas she had: Princess, Billy, and Simon. In the course of the film it is seen how two of these identities (Princess and Billy) are very child-like and innocent, both of them referring to Simon whom they do not want to talk about. This is heard in the recordings when the doctor says: You want to help her [pertaining to Mary] get better, don’t you, Billy? We have to wake up Simon! –of all three voices, Simon’s voice was the lowest, to an extent that it sounded really evil. This can connote that the Simon ‘living’ in Marry Hobbes was the character she could not control.

Mary Hobbes: [voice of Simon] And then… just so her mommy and daddy wouldn’t get mad –
[Simon sniggers]
Mary Hobbes: – I told her… to cut *them* up, too.
[Simon laughs uncontrollably]
Mary Hobbes: There was a lot of blood, Doc. Sooo much blood… But Mary wanted to do it. So, she did it.

Hints of Mary’s reoccurring case was obvious for me in two scenes: 1) When a voice that seemed like Simon’s was saying “Hello, Gordon.. You know who I am,” and 2) When Gordon was having a ‘conversation on the phone with his wife’, and Mary’s grave (Patient #444) was right under him.

In one of Linda Williams’ articles she says: talk to horror aficionados about Psycho and they will tell you that the film represents the moment when horror moved from what is outside and far away to what is inside us all and very close to home. –I think that Session 9 had this factor, which made it more appalling. The identity crisis Mary Hobbes underwent was seen in Gordon, whose character was relatively weak. His obvious emotions of dismay made me relate to him. With a limp, he looked helpless, like he was actually not capable of killing. This fact causing me to think twice about the chaos happening in the film, denial arose and I thought that maybe it was really Phil, the strong know-it-all leader of the pack, who was playing games with the crew. (Phil: Gordon! I need you to wake up, and take a really, *really* good look at him… You know what I wouldn’t do? I wouldn’t tell anybody about this, because if they find out about Hank, they’re going to find out about the others)

With the films’ twist and turns, at the end we find out that it was really Gordon who killed everyone. Fear for me was injected because of the truth that the horror found in Mary’s case in the past was in a way, found in something close to home—Gordon’s character in the present.

 

 

Session 9

Session 9 didn’t look like a horror film to me.  It can pass out as a suspense thriller or even a psychological crime movie.  It didn’t show gory scenes like zombie or slasher films; it didn’t even show how the victims were killed (it just showed subtle violence and it just described how the violence was done).

 

Even though Session 9 looks nothing like a horror film, it actually is.  First, Mark Jancovich said in his work Horror, The Film Reader: “horror is centrally concerned with an encounter between the known and the unknown, in which the unknown is implicitly dangerous and hostile”.  Session 9 shows us that there is an unknown entity and we are not sure what kind of a monster Simon is.  Second, Robin Wood said in his article “The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s” that “… it is necessary to offer a simple and obvious basic formula for the horror film: normality is threatened by the Monster. I use “normality” here in a strictly nonevaluative sense to mean simply “conformity to the dominant social norms”: one must firmly resist the common tendency to treat the word as if it were more or less synonymous with “health.” ”  In Session 9, it is clear that there is a Monster, we just don’t know what it really is.  This monster threatens the normality because people are dying and the monster’s host kills them.

 

Session 9 is a horror film based on the two characteristics that I mentioned above.  However, perhaps there is something that we can say about how the movie was done.  The movie was slow, quiet, and subtle; these characteristics are not the regular adjectives to describe a horror film.  Perhaps the message that the director is trying to translate to its audience is that horror does not need to be so obvious and all out. There is horror that creeps in you slowly and slowly possesses you.  There is a way that horror gets to you, and stays with you and leaves a mark in you.

 

Now, we ask the question, who is the monster in Session 9? Most importantly, who is Simon?  I don’t actually have a concrete answers, but I do have a few theories.  First, I don’t think that the girl from the start had a simple multiple disorder disease; well she has a disease but I don’t think that Simon can be considered as one of her alters.  I strongly believe that it is something demonic.  Maybe Simon is actually a demon or a vengeful spirit that possesses people, or as he says: “I live in the weak and the wounded”.  He takes advantage of those who have a poor spirit and he takes over them to control them.  Second, perhaps it is the “id”?  The id is a concept by Freud wherein it is contains the basic drives such as instincts and it seeks pleasure.  In this case, if it is indeed the id, then it is repressed.  People usually repress the “id” using the superego and the ego concept.  The superego is the extreme opposite of the id wherein it is a perfectionist and it functions to create order, while the ego is balances the two.  Through this repression, perhaps the id broke out and runs overdrive and it controls the person completely.  Third, another theory is that, perhaps there is a repression of the id and a demon uses this to his advantage by using it against the person.

 

These are my wild theories and I don’t really have any evidence to back it up.  I don’t know what the monster really is but I guess this is what makes Session 9 a good horror film.  This movie generates not only fear but also a ground for discussion and interest.