An enjoyably unsettling mystery with a dash of horror

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Kenneth Branagh is the mastermind behind several Christie adaptations.

Tristan Hasseman | staff writer

“A Haunting in Venice” is the thrilling third installation of Kenneth Branagh’s Agatha Christie adaptations and is his best to date thanks to the unpredictable plot and increased emphasis on the occult.

Perfectly pairing a classic ‘whodunnit’ with dark visuals and supernatural activity, “A Haunting in Venice” is a wonderfully suspenseful gothic mystery perfect for getting you in the Halloween spirit.

In addition to directing the film, Branagh stars as the renowned but recently retired detective, Hercule Poirot. With the help of his comically thick French accent and voluminous mustache, Branagh once again brings the character to life.

Joining him is a star-studded cast headlined by Hollywood icons Tina Fey and Michelle Yeoh.

Fey plays quick-witted mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver and Yeoh stars as the shady psychic Ms. Reynolds who arrives at the party to conduct a séance.

Unlike the previous films “Murder on the Orient Express” (2017) and “Death on the Nile” (2022), “A Haunting in Venice” is based on a much less acclaimed Christie novel.

Originally published in 1969, “Hallowe’en Party” is less substantial than some of Christie’s other novels, which gave Branagh and screenwriter Micheal Green the creative freedom to rework the novel into a screenplay adaptation.

In addition to overhauling the plot, they moved the location to Venice, which serves as the perfect cinematic setting for a supernatural mystery.

Rumored to be haunted by the vengeful ghosts of children killed by the plague, the vast, dilapidated house is the ideal setting for the film which at times feels more like a haunted house thriller than a murder mystery.

“These horror elements may be unabashedly creaky and derivative, but they work because the movie embraces them to the hilt,” said Justin Chang of NPR.

“A Haunting in Venice” is not a traditional horror movie but rather a dark and unsettling mystery that toes the line of a horror film but doesn’t cross it, allowing the movie to remain PG-13.

The simple-but-spooky cinematography paired with occult activities create the perfect Halloween film that scares and satisfies the viewer without including graphic displays of violence or blood.

What sets the movie apart from its predecessors is the departure from the cozy tropes often present in typical murder mysteries.

The most nuanced Branagh adaptation to date, the film captures the attention of the audience and adds emotional depth to the characters in ways that force the viewer to sympathize with them regardless of how suspicious they may seem.

Amid the gruesome deaths and double-crossings, the movie offers an empathetic insight into those who deal with guilt and loss.

Setting the movie in the aftermath of World War II provides the film with the unique opportunity to discuss mental health and the lasting impacts of war on the mind and soul.

Many characters reference their time serving, and their haunting memories play a crucial role in the movie.

Despite Branagh’s faulty French, increasingly failing accent and a few awkwardly presented lines, the impressive performances of the full cast overwhelm the viewers with immersive acting.

Whether you are a horror fanatic or not, “A Haunting in Venice” is a thoroughly enjoyable film that brings a breath of fresh air to the often complacent and predictable world of mystery movies and is the perfect way to start the Halloween season.