As Hercule Poirot continues his cinematic comeback, the modern take on the series ventures towards the supernatural. Based on the Agatha Christie novel Hallowe’en Party, A Haunting in Venice features, well, a haunting in Venice. The great detective with an even greater moustache must face a world beyond our own, as the murder at hand seems to have been carried out by ghosts.
A murder mystery with horror fixings sounds like a match made in heaven. The whodunnit paranoia combined with the paranormal ought to provide dread and suspense at every corner. Instead, A Haunting in Venice never quite gets you to the point of panic. The film carries out as these films often do. The detective corners those who proclaim their innocence and pieces together the wheres and the whys until the killer is revealled in a stirring speech.
What the film brings to the table is the undercurrent of things that go bump in the night. To the point where the ever-grounded Poirot starts to doubt his grasp on reality. That feeling never extended past the screen. Every instance of inexplicable fright felt like a set-up for what would likely be explained away in the last 20 minutes of the film. Nothing stretches credulity, and the attempts at doing so are largely ho hum.
Beyond the bells and whistles, A Haunting in Venice is still a good old-fashioned murder mystery. Unlike the previous two Branagh-directed Poiroit pictures, this entry is far-less star studded. That plays to the film’s benefit, with the cast being far less distracting. The performances across the board are solid, but the stand out is the film’s child actor Jude Hill, who is by far the most compelling.
A Haunting in Venice is a dimly lit Gothic mystery that takes a giant house and induces claustrophobia. It evokes a feeling of rats trapped in a maze. Its attempts at terror miss the mark, and its adherence to the formulaic genre feels like it’s going through the motions. Luckily it’s a formula that works well, keeping you locked in until the film’s satisfying conclusion.
Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies.