Director – Nikolay Khomeriki, Screenplay – Maryna Dyachenko, Serhihy Dyachenko, Michael Kupisk, Aleksandr Rodionov, With the help of Sergei Bodrov, Marina Denisevich, Oleg Mastich, Sergei Snezhkin, Nadezhda Vorobyova & Kirill Zhurenkov, Producers – Sergey Melkumov & Alexander Rodnyansky, Photography – Maksim Osadchiy, Music – Igor Vdovin, Production Design – Sergei Ivanov. Production Company – Non-Stop Production/The Cinema Foundation of Russia.
Evgeniy Tsyganov (Colonel Sergei Rostov), Daisy Head (Olivia Reed), Dmitriy Lysenkov (Fyodor Garin), Yuri Kolokolnikov (Vasiliy Golitsyn), Jonathan Alan Salway (James Reed), Ivan Reshetnyak (Gopher/Suslik)
St Petersburg near the end of the 19th Century. Police inspector Sergei Rostov deals with a series of ritual killings around the city. A stone is found placed inside the latest victim’s body that is decorated with a pentagram. In investigating, Rostov sees the same pentagram on posters advertising the British medium Olivia Reed who is visiting the city on tour. Rostov attends one of Olivia’s meetings and then asks her for a private reading whereupon he arrests her as a fraud. However, Olivia has real clairvoyant abilities and is able to give Rostov clues that lead them on the trail of the killer. She realises that the killer is trying to conduct nine human sacrifices at various points around the city in the shape of a pentagram in order to conduct an occult summoning.
The Ninth was the sixth film for Russian director Nikolay Khomeriki. Khomeriki first appeared as writer/director of the SF film 977 (2006). He subsequently went on to make the dramas A Tale in the Darkness (2009), Heart’s Boomerang (2011), The Icebreaker (2016) and Selfie (2018) in which a man’s life is taken over by a doppelganger.
The Ninth is a visually stunningly film. Nikolay Khomeriki makes full use of the St Petersburg locations. Almost every shot of the film takes place against classic buildings or fills streets with black coaches racing, characters framed against statues of gargoyles, bodies floating in canals or artfully arranged beside statues. Elsewhere the prologue is a full flight of Indiana Jones-styled Adventure Film and features a venture into a lost desert city.
Medium Daisy Head’s first appearance to conduct a public reading takes place not in a regular hall but in an opera house and with her outfitted in an elaborate black dress and matching black eyeliner during which her hands burst into flame and she conjures a circle of fire around her. Nikolay Khomeriki builds all of this up with great effect but then gives us a subsequent scene where Daisy Head conducts a seance for inspector Evgeniy Tsyganov filled with similar theatrical effects only for him to puncture it and reveal that she is faking it.
Stripped of its considerable Gothic affectation, The Ninth is at heart not much more than a Clairvoyance and Precognition thriller. See the likes of Baffled! (1972), Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Fear (1990), The Gift (2000) and others, which have frequently been made for tv. These are essentially detective stories that centre around individuals who have gained cryptic clues about murders or events about to happen and must race around just like a detective to solve the mystery.
Once all the stylistic artifice is pared away, The Ninth follows exactly the same path as these clairvoyant thrillers with a detective and girl clairvoyant following the clues in a series of ritual murders. Most clairvoyant thrillers are mundane beyond the actual psychic power itself but this comes steeped in a mood of occultism while the killer’s plot concerns the attempts to enact a ritual to resurrect the dead. It is the visuals that make the film.