By Grace Hogsten
On Sept. 15, 20th Century Studios released “A Haunting in Venice,” the third installment of Kenneth Branagh’s Agatha Christie adaptations featuring beloved detective Hercule Poirot. However, this installment breaks from the previous tone of the series by adding horror and supernatural spirits into the mix.
The film is based on Christie’s 1969 novel “Hallowe’en Party,” and takes great liberties with the original source material. If you have read the book, the movie may still surprise you.
According to Dexerto, “A Haunting in Venice” changes major details surrounding the murder victims, the deaths, and even the mystery’s characteristic twist ending, as well as changing the story’s location and shortening its timeline.
Branagh reprises his role as Poirot, once again donning a ridiculous fake mustache resembling the tail of a short-haired cat. Other stars include Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh, whose portrayal of medium Joyce Reynolds captivates the audience, and Tina Fey, whose performance as mystery writer Ariadne Oliver leaves much to be desired.
“A Haunting in Venice” is the best installment of Branagh’s trio of Poirot mysteries. It features more intrigue and heart-pounding, thrilling scenes than “Murder on the Orient Express” (2017), and far surpasses “Death on the Nile” (2022), which drags along at a snail’s pace.
The movie begins with a recently-retired Poirot avoiding clients in Venice. Ariadne convinces him to attend a seance with her on Halloween night. When one of the guests is murdered, Poirot must resume his role as detective and question his own iron-clad disbelief in the paranormal.
In many ways, “A Haunting in Venice” is similar to its predecessors. An unlikely group of people – including an opera singer, a housekeeper, a doctor, and a precocious young boy – gather. A character is murdered, and Poirot prevents the suspects from leaving until he solves the mystery.
Nevertheless, the differences are striking. Poirot struggles with the concept of the paranormal, and the movie’s drawn-out, suspenseful scenes and jump scares qualify it as horror.
“When I first brought this up to everyone involved, I said, ‘What if we tried to make a horror movie, a ghost movie,’” screenwriter Michael Green said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Without explicit gore, the film utilizes shadows and silhouettes, auditory elements, and shots of other characters’ horrified faces to spur the audience’s imaginations into envisioning the gruesome deaths.
Viewers jump when a dark and terrifying figure appears behind an innocent victim and gasp when dramatic irony reveals who will be the next to die.
“A Haunting in Venice” gives new life to a dying franchise. According to the International Movie Database, its predecessor, “Death on the Nile,” grossed only $45 million domestically on a budget of $90 million. Though it earned more internationally, the 2022 film was largely a failure; according to The Guardian, it was “an empty bauble of a movie.”
“A Haunting in Venice” is a good film because it adapts audiences’ favorite aspects of Christie’s writing, picks up the pace in comparison to previous movies, and attracts a new set of viewers to the theaters with its venture into the horror genre.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Caption: Yeoh, who won Best Actress at the Academy Awards earlier this year, steals every scene she is in as the elusive medium Joyce Reynolds.