This week Disney and 20th Century Studios are finally releasing A Haunting in Venice, the third outing in Kenneth Branagh’s series of Hercule Poirot mysteries, based on the works of Agatha Christie. Given the actors and WGA strikes and other events going on in the world, the movie hasn’t seemingly been pushed a ton, but I’m here to say give it a chance, as you should absolutely adore it. And I’m saying this as someone who doesn’t love seeing new horror movies.
One thing you’ll find if you write about movies or television regularly is that you’ll fall into certain beats. If you write extensively on a JLo rom-com, for example, you might eventually find yourself writing about great rom-coms or maybe even Hallmark Christmas movies to boot. If you like indie movies, you might find yourself hopping from Lars Von Trier to Damien Chazelle’s latest. We have other people who love horror movies at CinemaBlend, so I’ve never really had to push hard into that genre (I do try to see a few entries each year), but this movie ended up falling squarely into my wheelhouse. So, let’s talk about why Kenneth Branagh’s offbeat A Haunting in Venice should work for such a wide swathe of audiences.
It’s Legitimately Eerie, But It’s Never Overly Gross Or Bloody
One of the major problems I tend to have with horror movies is how gratuitous they can be. Yet, every once and awhile a movie will come along that has all of the major hallmarks of a horror film but keeps things PG-13 in a way that’s designed to be scary but not gross. That’s this movie.
To be clear, there are some disturbing deaths in this movie, some jump scares and some moments that seem to defy Hercule Poirot’s logical mind; so if you enjoy the grotesque, this movie should still have appeal. Yet for those of use who don’t, it’s not going to keep us up at night – here’s looking at you Saw 2's needle pit. This all has to do with how the movie deftly blends a supernatural bent with a more traditional murder mystery.
The Genre-Bending Mystery Is Just As Exciting As The Supernatural Stuff
Look, I am an absolute sucker for a good mystery, and anything created by Agatha Christie is usually in my wheelhouse, so I am biased in that I doubtless would have seen this film whether or not it had tilted fully into the horror genre. However, unlike the two traveling Poirot films that came before it, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, A Haunting in Venice is not an action-adventure film.
More on A Haunting in Venice
Instead, the audience is stranded with the cast in an eerie old mansion and asked to follow a series of clues that are seemingly supernatural. It’s genre-bending and it really, really works. In fact, critics. including CinemaBlend’s own A Haunting in Venice review, have been much more positive about this new movie than either of Branagh’s other two Poirot films-- though Orient Express and DOTN were loosely liked too. That probably shouldn't be the case given the ending is not among Christie’s finest and the movie takes pains to rework Hallowe'en Party's twists. But I think it’s because this movie really gets all of the pieces right. The performances in these movies have always been stellar and the mysteries have always been solid, but A Haunting really tries for something different and it nails the landing. Give it a watch.
It’s Release Date Came At The Perfect Time
I was actually kind of annoyed that Disney released Haunted Mansion over the summer. It seems that was done so that the LaKeith Stanfield and Tiffany Haddish starrer hit Disney+ over the Halloween holiday. However, my apologies to Disney because I now think holding A Haunting in Venice for October was the right call, and I totally see why the studio wouldn't want two movies competing in theaters during spooky season, even if one was more geared toward families than the other.
Haunted Mansion is funny but not particularly well put together; A Haunting in Venice is actually a superbly crafted film. Is it awards worthy? I'm not sure the Academy will care, though the performances are quite meaty; regardless, it’s certainly a well-crafted story and it’s certainly what I want to be watching during spooky season. I can’t wait to see it again, and see if there were any clues I missed the first time around that would have helped me to nail the movie’s ending.
Catch it in theaters now.