It’s not immediately obvious when watching the trailer that A Haunting in Venice is a Hercule Poirot murder mystery and a sequel to Murder on the Orient Express (and Death on the Nile but no one really talks about that one.) The way it’s been advertised the film looks like it could stand next to the likes of Insidious and Sinister; at least that’s how the trailer makes it look.
Pretty spooky stuff, but is the new Kenneth Branagh film actually a horror, or is that all just for show?
What is the premise?
There are, without a doubt, elements of horror within the film. It kicks off with a séance in an old palazzo. The Italian building is said to be haunted by the spirits of children and Poirot is here to prove that the psychic (Michelle Yeoh) is a con artist. Of course, when the attendees start dropping like flies people begin to suspect that perhaps there really are ghosts attending with the living guests. Even Poirot begins to question his assertion about the world of spirits simply being smoke and mirrors.
That sounds spooky, but is it actually scary?
I suppose that is down to what you would consider as horror. Everybody has their own threshold when it comes to the scares. If you’re the type to be easily scared then maybe you could consider this a horror, but compared to some of the more recent horror flicks released lately, I don’t know.
Are there a few spooky scenes? Yes. Would I call it a horror movie? No. While the trailers may have presented it as such, A Haunting in Venice is not really much more scary than the other two films in the Poirot-verse. This latest installment is sort of just horror-flavored rather than being genuinely scary. Plus, it still carries a PG-13 rating.
In reality, it’s actually just a pretty underwhelming and conventional murder mystery, and that comes first and foremost above all the scares. We have way too many scenes of dialogue and debating for the film to really be a truly horrifying experience. While Branagh may toy with the idea of his film being a ghost story, it never really strays from its roots as a mystery thriller.
The film is based on the Agatha Christie novel Hallowe’en Party although much of the plot and setting has been changed. The novel itself isn’t a horror but as most detective stories do, it delves into spooky territory just a smidge and in that sense, the film has followed suit.