Freeman Cebu Entertainment

‘A Haunting in Venice’: Watch for the scares, stay for the mystery

Januar Junior Aguja - The Freeman

In the latest of Kenneth Branagh’s adaptations of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, the now-retired detective based in Venice was invited to attend a séance by his friend and colleague Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) because a mother named Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly) is still grieving the loss of her daughter and seeks to find who murdered her through supernatural means -- something Poirot is naturally skeptical about.

Leading the séance is Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) whom Poirot suspects to be a con artist. Joining the group are Maxime Gerard (Kyle Allen), Olga Seminoff (Camille Cottin), Dr. Leslie Ferrier (Jamie Dornan), his son Leopold (Jude Hill), Nicholas and Desdemona Hollan (Ali Khan and Emma Laird) and Vitale Portfoglio (Richard Scarmaclo).

After one of them is murdered, Poirot is forced to come out of retirement to find the killer before the night ends, all while suddenly seeing ghostly visions that may compromise his investigation.

When Branagh started adapting Poirot’s stories with “Murder on the Orient Express”, it was just a so-so detective film despite its stellar cast and impressive cinematography. The problem was that Orient Express has been adapted many times that the plot twists don’t feel shocking anymore.

Critics noticed that its follow-up “Death on the Nile”, released last year, was an improvement, though not without its faults. They praised it for being entertaining, albeit formulaic and old-fashioned.

“A Haunting in Venice” takes a slight tone departure from its two predecessors, leaning more on the supernatural elements. While audiences are expecting this to be a horror film, the director-star clarified in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that this is a “thriller” and not full-fledged horror despite the trailers depicting it as such.

It is true that this doesn’t feel like a horror flick, but it did have occasional jump scares that will catch audiences off-guard, especially in Poirot’s perspective when he seems to be the only one hearing Drake’s daughter in her ghost form which is ironic given his initial skepticism.

That being said, there could have been more done to make the film feel more suspenseful. It takes place in a heavy rainy evening in Venice, an area easily flooded due to its nearby canal. Increasing the intensity of the rain in the backdrop of a supernatural thriller mystery felt like a missed opportunity to make this film feel scarier despite that not being its intention.

Based on Christie’s “Hallowe’en Party”, the novel wasn’t adapted as much as “Orient Express” so audiences may expect something new from this entry.

As it is with detective stories, the devil is in the details. Some may have suspected finding a killer sooner than intended, based on the clues if they pay attention enough. Nonetheless, the way Poirot came up with his conclusion on the killer should still be shocking enough to make this an entertaining journey.

One of its strengths is that it knows when to end its mystery. Running around 103 minutes, this is the shortest Poirot mystery, following “Orient Express” at 114 minutes and “Nile” at 127. It didn’t feel like it was dragging its momentum at all as one revelation led to another until he could name the killer at the right time.

Audiences who haven’t seen the previous two films can get the gist,considering the cast members mostly rotate except Poirot, though he has gone through some character development that some context may be missing. Unless they care to know more about the detective, they can catch up with the story without feeling like they missed out.

The success of these Poirot stories by Branagh is a bit puzzling considering it doesn’t leave a huge impression on the pop culture sphere, yet people go watch him find the killer in theaters. The strengths of “A Haunting in Venice” surely show why these films are interesting to watch that a fourth Poirot mystery has the potential to become even better. Three stars out of five.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with