(Image c/o Disney/20th Century Studios)
By Matthew Colvin
The spookiest month of the year, October, has finally arrived, and with it comes a slew of new horror movies for you to get your annual fix of chills and jump scares. One of the first is A Haunting in Venice, the third in a series of loose adaptations of famed mystery author Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels helmed by director, producer, and lead actor Kenneth Branagh. The previous two films, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, came out to middling reviews, but A Haunting in Venice does things a little differently, layering supernatural horror elements on top of a good old-fashioned whodunit. So how does this genre smash-up fare? Quite well, all things considered.
The story hook is simple but effective; retired detective Hercule Poirot receives an invitation to attend a séance at the palace of a famous opera singer and skeptically accepts, only for a slew of murders and ghostly appearances to occur, forcing him to come out of retirement for one night to solve the mystery. While the plot itself does not reinvent the wheel, it manages to be suitably entertaining for the film’s hour and forty-minute runtime, carried by a wildly entertaining cast of actors. Branagh does well as the iconic detective Poirot, but it is Michelle Yeoh and Tina Fey in particular who steal the show as a spiritual medium and a crime novelist, respectively. The filmmaking on display is what really makes the experience. It is exceptionally well shot, making use of claustrophobic close-ups, contrasting lighting with deep, brooding shadows and unique angles to constantly keep the tension up and the audience on edge.
The scares themselves are good, at times pushing that PG-13 rating to its limits; not necessarily likely to terrify diehard horror fans, but certainly enough to keep any average moviegoer on the edge of their seats. This feat is especially impressive considering that the film’s source material, the 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party, has no trappings of the horror genre, but is much more of a straightforward detective story. It is these very creative liberties that Branagh takes with the source material that make A Haunting in Venice an improvement on the two films that preceded it, and an enjoyable Halloween flick that demands little from its audience to enjoy. So if you are looking for some decent popcorn entertainment and some solid scares this October, A Haunting in Venice is a good pick.
20th Century Studios, A Haunting in Venice
Agatha Christie, Hallowe’en Party
Madison Sciba '24,