Ponty really pulled out all the stops with his #8 entry, going after some real, big budget badness. I feel as though I should follow suit, but that will come all in due time.
Instead, my #8 for my Top Ten Worst Films is, naturally, an indie cult flick that was a critical darling, which means you know it’s a stinker: the psychological horror asbestos removal film Session 9 (2001).
That’s right—it is a film about a crew hired to remove dangerous asbestos from an abandoned mental hospital. The city has purchased the building and wants to renovate it for its new town hall, and hires Gordon Fleming and his crew to make the building safe.
Desperate to earn a bonus on the job, Gordon promises to complete it in just two weeks (the Wikipedia entry says one week, but I am pretty sure he promises two weeks after his colleague suggests it would take two). He employs a ragtag crew, including his nyctophobic nephew; a hyperintelligent law school dropout; a gambling addict; and Phil, who is just angry the entire film.
Naturally, the inquisitive failed law student starts digging into the files of the mental hospital, uncovering recordings from a former patient, Mary Hobbes. He becomes obsessed with the tapes, listening to Mary—who suffered from dissociative identity disorder, and killed her family while assuming one of her identities, “Simon”—switch between personalities, with names like “Billy” and “Princess.”
It’s a bit of a quibble, but if they’re so desperate to complete this job on time—as Gordon, Phil, and others keep pointing out—how is this dude taking time to listen to tapes? There are also many scenes with the crew eating lunch. I mean, sure, we as an audience don’t want to watch the crew removing asbestos in real-time, but it doesn’t seem like much work is getting done in this film.
Regardless, the crew continues their work, with tensions boiling between them. Phil—played by the obnoxious David Caruso of CSI: Miami fame—keeps yelling at everyone, but especially Gordon.
It bugged me the bulk of the film trying to figure out who plays Phil. I remember thinking, “Is that that smug dude from CSI: Miami?” Once I realized he was, it completely took me out of his character, who was already obnoxious. Now I couldn’t stop thinking about Horatio Caine removing asbestos.
Predictably, things start going awry on the job, with the gambling addict going missing after discovering a cache of silver coins in the wall. Gordon confesses to slapping his wife reflexively after she accidentally dumped boiling hot water on him. The lights go out, and the nephew gets scared.
At this point, I honestly tuned out. I’ll admit, the asbestos removal angle pulled me in. Perhaps I got what I deserved; how could there ever be an interesting film about asbestos abatement? But I’m a sucker for the weird and unusual, and thought it might be a taut psychological thriller.
Instead, it becomes a boring slogfest with a predictable ending: the personality “Simon” is back, and seems to have worked his way into Gordon. It’s pretty apparent that Gordon has not merely slapped his wife, but killed her in a dissociative state. As the would-be-lawyer listens to Session 9 of Mary’s tapes (thus the title), it becomes pretty clear that Simon is some malevolent or demonic presence preying on the weak-spirited.
David Caruso’s hammy overacting really killed this film. Had it been Nicolas Cage, it would have been great hammy overacting; with Caruso, who possesses one of the most punchable faces I have ever seen, it just comes across as gratingly angry and unpleasant.
If I were cleverer and had seen this movie ahead of time, it would have been #9 just for the fun of playing with the title. I guess I should have flunked out of law school.
Regardless, watching an actual video about asbestos removal would surely be more entertaining than this self-important drivel.