A rare book dealer is tasked with tracking down the last
remaining copies of a book that supposedly can summon the devil.
The Ninth Gate (1999)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by John Brownjohn, Enrique Urbizu, Roman Polanski
Starring Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin,
Emmanuelle Seigner, Barbara Jefford, James Russo
Based on the novel The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
The Ninth Gate seemed like an attempt by Roman Polanski to recapture his horror glory days with a story akin to Rosemary's Baby. There's demonic forces of evil, extreme paranoia, power in sexuality, and a protagonist who gets lost in the supernatural. But unlike Rosemary's Baby, this film makes little to no sense and has no real payoff at the end. We never know if the devil was real or if Frank Langella's character Balkan was just insane. The buildup is substantial and entertaining, but the lack of resolution just about ruins the entire movie.
Johnny Depp plays Dean Corso, a rare book dealer who makes a living buying priceless books from people who don't know what they have. When he's hired by Boris Balkan (Langella) to find the two copies of an ancient demonic text (of which Balkan has the third), Corso is drawn into a massive conspiracy surrounding this book, which supposedly has the power to summon the devil himself. Whether or not this was true or just a fantasy is never really confirmed. There's an out of place sex scene at the end with a character who may be the devil, but there's no confirmation. Plus, around this time, Corso does a complete character shift and is suddenly interested in the summoning ritual, despite him being in it for money the whole time. It's not a well-written finale.
The Ninth Gate had the potential to be a truly unforgettable psychological horror about the paranoia surrounding satanic cults, but instead it's really just Johnny Depp going from country to country examining the same book while people try to take it from him, but not try hard enough. You keep waiting for something to happen, hoping that your waiting will be worth it, but the true shocker of an ending is that it wasn't.