Nothing brings ‘em in like a promise to host a study group on Session 9. It’s not that I think I’m some kind of authority on movies (well, not much) but I wasn’t completely confused by this and I could see how someone might be.This actually began life as a different post. I found some very angry discussions on a message board with flaming between the “Simon as entity” and “Simon as alter” people; the alter people were the angrier ones for the most part, and I wondered why, so I put up a post asking someone to come over and explain. Nobody did, but that led to me getting a ton of hits for “Session 9 explain.” So this post was born, which doesn’t go with most of the rest of the blog, but it is the post that gets the most hits. Lots of people see Session 9 for the first time every single day!
I’m going to presume I know what the key misunderstandings are but it’s impossible to cover the whole movie without sitting beside you and explaining it as it goes. It’s incredibly complex for a haunted house movie, which is due in part to the fact that the director, Brad Anderson, competently makes other movies besides genre movies. He’s looking to tell a story here, and this one happens to be scary, but he also did a delightful indie romantic dramedy called Next Stop Wonderland which I’ve watched even more times than I’ve watched Session 9. Okay, movie art and then the list of spoilers.
10. Simon possesses Gordon the first time Gordon goes to Danvers. We know this because the voice we hear say “Hello, Gordon,” during his first walkthrough is the same voice we hear when Simon speaks on the 9th tape of Mary’s sessions with the doctor.
9. Right after Gordon goes home from successfully bidding on the job, on Friday, his wife spills a pot of boiling water on his leg which makes him stab her and the baby to death. Gordon then dissociates, meaning his personality splits into alters and the person he is when he is at work doesn’t know the person who killed his family and who continues to roam the asylum at night.
8. As Gordon is getting out of the car to go kill his family, the camera does a close up on the jar of peanut butter in his bag. Hank (Josh Lucas) sees the same jar of peanut butter on the floor when he goes in after hours to steal the rare coins. This is a clue to who has lobotomized Hank. Gordon.
7. Gordon has been staying at the asylum since Friday.
6. The coins and jewelry Hank finds are from the crematorium, which means he has found his “fortune” by combing through cremains. Ew.
5. Phil (David Caruso) really does talk to Amy, who really does think Hank ran off to Miami.
4. When Mike is listening to the tapes and the film cuts to Gordon in the patient cemetery, Gordon is standing right over Mary’s grave.
3. When Craig comes in to replace Hank on Friday, everyone in the crew is already dead (except Hank, who is barely hanging on to life but lobotomized.) Gordon killed Jeff, Mike and Phil the day before, on Thursday, after Phil found Hank. The Phil we see on Friday is merely Gordon’s hallucination, the part of Gordon’s mind who knows he killed the others and attacked Hank. We know this because Phil disappears when Craig comes in, and Craig says “who are you talking to.” Then Craig is killed by Gordon when he notices Hank lying on the floor. We then see Gordon flash back to the killings the day before as well as the memory of killing his family on the previous Friday. However, Gordon, like Mary, immediately forgets again, because his mind can’t handle what happened, and that’s why we see him trying to call his wife on the phone again.
2. Phil’s problem with Hank is a red herring. Gordon definitely lobotomized Hank, because we see that scene as part of Gordon’s flashbacks on Friday. The red herring is strong, because even the imaginary Phil who talks to Gordon on Friday still is made to seem a little guilty at first. Perhaps Gordon himself believes Phil attacked Hank until he has the realization in flashbacks of all that he himself has done. The argument over calling Amy on Thursday is probably because tensions are so high and Phil doesn’t realize just how far gone Gordon is, so Phil gets frustrated at the suspicion being turned on him. He and Gordon are old friends, so Phil doesn’t quite understand that he can’t reason with Gordon anymore; also, he is confused because he thought Hank was in Miami. Certainly if he realized that Gordon was about to snap and kill everyone he would have backed off and handled the situation with more care.
1. The film is deliberately ambiguous on the nature of Simon. I think Mary had a split personality and Gordon did too, but the taped voice of Mary as Simon matching the voice Gordon hears makes me think Simon possessed them both. A lot of people think Simon was not an evil entity, but an alter. With that interpretation Mary’s story on the tapes was only supposed to be a clue to what happened to Gordon.
P.S. I don’t know what the backstory is on this video, but these guys liked the scene where Phil says “fuck you” so much that they re-enacted it and you can watch it here on YouTube. If you just got through watching Session 9 you can likely use a little humor.
And here is David Caruso saying it:
Edit: May 2011
If there is anything in particular people don’t understand that I haven’t brought up I’d love to know what it is. Maybe we can figure it out together. firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. April 2012
Thanks to reader Charles C. for giving us a link to deleted scenes which confirm that Simon was to have been an evil entity, and his take on why the movie is better for having been left ambiguous by the exclusion of these scenes:
Simon’s parting words that he “lives in the weak and wounded” tell us quite a bit, as both those descriptors fit Mary and Gordon (quite literally, in the “wounded” aspect). This fits well with Mary’s role in the deleted moments: Simon no longer lives in Mary because she has grown beyond her weakness, ultimately confronting Simon and killing his current manifestation.
As you said, they wanted to be ambiguous, and the deleted moments do seem to be beating you over the head telling you it’s a malignant spirit. I think there’s a fair amount of support for that idea without a “freed” Mary returning, so maybe that’s why they were removed. They don’t explain why she was presumed dead either – perhaps that’s another reason the extended ending was cut.
Nov 8 2012 – In the screen grab below, check out this awesome bit of foreshadowing that reader Khaotikai pointed out! This text (“Suddenly it’s going to dawn on you”) can be seen in the patient room that Bill shows Gordon and Phil when they first visit the hospital to bid on the job. This is where Bill explains that the patients are allowed to decorate their rooms in a collage as a form of therapy. Also, I watched the entire movie again today after finding the screenshot and clarified a few things in the original explanation. That’s the fun of a blog! It’s a living document. Thanks to Khaotikai and to everyone who continues to contribute to the discussion.