It's perplexing how certain films fall through the cracks of the Hollywood distribution machine. Session 9, a deceptive little gem of a horror flick, is one glaring example. The film follows a blue-collar hazmat crew hired to clean up the the Danvers State Insane Asylum — an actual hospital that exists in Massachusetts. Peter Mullan (The Magdalene Sisters) is Gordon, co-owner of Hazmat Elimination Co. He's an intense man and new father whose business is failing. Despite reservations from his partner Phil (David Caruso, CSI: Miami), they bid to have the abandoned behemoth cleaned out in a week. Their small crew includes failed law student Mike (co-writer Stephen Gevedon), smug slimeball Hank (Josh Lucas, Sweet Home Alabama), who slept with Phil's wife, and Jeff (Brendan Sexton III, Welcome To The Dollhouse), Gordon's mulleted nephew. As the pressure of the job mounts and Hank suddenly disappears, Session 9 slowly unfolds into a dark and very scary investigation of the fine line between sanity and insanity. Director Brad Anderson dissects the characters' crumbling lives, barely masked hostility and personal disappointment with cinematic precision. To say much more about the plot would ruin the stunning end of the film, which will leave you equally freaked-out and sad. Yes, the devil is in the details. Session 9 was one of the first feature films shot using Sony's 24P HD video, which shoots at 24 frames per second (like film) as opposed to the 30 frames per second of conventional video. The extras include a great featurette called The Haunted Palace, which gives a partial history of the Danvers mental hospital. Included are personal anecdotes from cast and crew on their experiences inside Danvers. Peter Mullan in particular was deeply affected by the eerie locale and it shows in his stunning performance. —Paul Knoll
The Passing Show: The Life and Times of Ronnie Lane
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Given the fact that everything in life is subjective, and that there is no artistic justice, and that what makes it in show biz is reckoned not by those who seek, but those who ingest what's provided — it's no shock that Ronnie Lane is yet another rock 'n' roll footnote.
His pedigree is astonishing: a singing, songwriting, bass-playing member of the Small Faces (think Steve Marriott), the Faces (think Rod Stewart and Ron Wood), or the brilliant album Rough Mix (think Pete Townshend). But if you stop thinking about the aforementioned household names, you're left with Lane. And, as this love letter of a documentary reveals, he's well worth your thoughts.
Lane, who succumbed to multiple sclerosis in 1997, was a physically small man of great talent who fell into the sticky category of a musician's musician. Which means the public doesn't give a shit for his type, but that's how it goes.
His story is a valiant one: Lane was a relentless chaser of his own musical vision, come what may. And it did. Homeless at one point, then buying a discount circus tent caravan to carve out his gypsy-like Passing Show tour, finally moving to a humble life in Austin, Texas, and dying.
If you're a fan, or if you've never heard of this guy, or if you have an interest in the fleeting beauty of the human spirit, watch this thing. —Peter Gilstrap