Session 9 has always had a “lost classic” status attached to it. It was only given a limited, platform-style release by the short-lived USA Films and was discovered by many film fans via home video. It has been waiting for a high-def revisit since its original 2002 DVD release and that moment has arrived now via a new blu-ray from Scream Factory. The result is a nice edition that offers plenty of supplemental material to support its main attraction.
Session 9 was an early all-digital production so the image here doesn’t have a traditional celluloid look but it is skillfully rendered and quite colorful in the transfer used here. The lossless audio sticks to the original 2.0 stereo mix so there’s no surround speaker activity to speak of but it’s a carefully designed mix with interesting layers that is given a sharp, clear presentation here.
This disc collects the extras from the old DVD and adds a couple of highly informative new extras. Here’s a bonus features recap that starts with the two new items…
Return To Danvers (48:57): comprehensive new making-of featurette that includes director/co-writer Brad Anderson, cinematographer Uta Briesewitz and actors Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton III, Larry Fessenden and Stephen Gevedon (who also co-wrote). It reveals how the location and a real murder case inspired the script, covers casting tales and some scary anecdotes about paranormal incidents that popped up during filmmaking, including a three-person account of a terrifying incident that almost crippled Briesewitz. You also get interesting info about how the striking HD photography look was achieved and some information about the haunting sound design. Great stuff for fans.
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (20:13): Sean Clark notes late in the proceedings that this was a passion project for him (he also co-directed “Return To Danvers”) and that shines through in his work here. He visits the main location, which has been transformed into apartments (!), but also is able to work in camcorder footage that he and his friends took a little over a decade ago when they snuck into the then-intact location. You get a lot of fascinating trivia about the location and the film shoot and the tricky structure works because the piece is extremely well-edited.
Commentary: Anderson and Gevedon do this track, which was recorded for the original DVD release. It’s got a just-the-facts approach but offers plenty of worthwhile info on what it was like shooting in the main location, shooting on digital equipment, cast stories and even some tales of test screenings. Worth the time, particularly if you’re interested in the filmmaking process.
Deleted Scenes/Alternate Ending (9:40): a reel of scenes presented with optional commentary from Anderson. That commentary is recommended listening as it allows him to explain how the snips included here represent an entire subplot that was removed during editing.
Story To Screen (10:01): a neat little split-screen segment that compares about seven scenes from the film with storyboards and on-set video footage showing how these moments were shot.
The Haunted Palace (12:54): this vintage featurette goes into the history of the Danvers institution, mixing input from the cast and crew with people who have studied the history of the place. Like Session 9 itself, it has a quietly unnerving quality as it gets into the institution’s troubled history and some tales about strange things the cast experienced while shooting there (Peter Mullen in particular has some very intense commentary to offer on the latter subject).
Trailer: a well-edited spot that simplifies the premise but conveys the film’s unsettling feel nicely.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Session 9, click here.