A Haunting Treats Supernatural Tricks, Just in Time for Halloween

17th Dallas International Film Festival

By Alyson Powers

Shrill screams a plenty to make you jump in upcoming twisted murder mystery … 
A Haunting in Venice. During her writing years, Agatha Christie completed 66 mystery novels. One would imagine how a monotonous formula might drain creativity. It is here in the third installment and at the beginning of our third howling season of 2023 that a changeup in air and chills occurs. Michael Green rewrites the story to merge a couple of her works together (as she has plenty to choose from) in order to bring a more eerie delight to your fall season in lieu of the step-by-step mystery: full of suspicion and tradition and murder. Liberty is taken, though Christie would not likely frown on decisions made in this version based on discovering how her dark turn during the writing of Hallowe’en Party, the actual title for novel three, included
 ~~~~supernatural phenomena. 

Your first thirty minutes on this ride offers a nice haunting grab plush with dark scenery, candles. Screaming kids. Minor notes of a violin pull you down toward melancholy. It’s a shadow puppet scene that poses as real danger and is frightening enough to make me want to leave America, even though A Haunting is in Venice, not even here, and not even real but fiction. When horror involves children, it’s a different type of affect.

Do you know the white Venetian masks named Bauta? I’ve always been oddly reluctantly drawn to them. The ones worn here donned with a tear. A solemn boy in particular, hiding behind one, the son of Dr. Leslie Ferrier played by Jamie Dornan (50 Shades, Belfast), introduces us the first suspicious candidate. It’s this partially psycho-disturbed behaving character Dr. Ferrier who might begin to peak a detective in those who participate in the hunt of mysteries. First act wraps with a murder and an attempted murder, strategically placed in our timeline, and tadaa; A Haunting in Venice has you spooked, I mean hooked.

And yet in the darkness still you sense a tone of something less that you must fear. Maybe because the moment Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live) makes her appearance it’s a little difficult to take it all so seriously. Sorry Tina, you have that permanent comedy tag over your head. I’m sure you granted a lesson or two because did I see a comedic flair in your fellow supporting actress Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once 2022) minutes before … oops careful. It’s a little too easy to spill spoilers in mystery when each and every dripping word hiding guilty details matters.ūüė¨

If you’ve never read anything by Agatha Christie, it seems from information available Branagh’s first two films stuck close to the lines of each corresponding novel. This one not so much. Executive Producer James Prichard wanted to surprise and explore forward with more horror elements adding terror to the series. In an interview he states the master mind behind it all truly is Kenneth Branagh.

The first time I (me, Alyson Powers) was introduced to Kenneth Branagh was a Harry Potter film The Chamber of Secrets, (2002). In it he played an inflated halfwit con wizard Lockhart Gilderoy. He played it very well. His Poirot character has none of these undesirable traits but carries the “charisma” of that type of character right into the depth and full wit of a genius. Without his uncanny spark this film, as well as the others to be sure, would have trudged on sluggishly. It’s the monologuing of such genres that tends to yawn.

That aside, trust me this is fresh. And definitely deviates from the expectation. Even if you’re not into whodunits, you must admit perfect timing. You will find yourself enticed by a rich and tactile setting, so real you can feel the rust on walls and smell its dankness, delightfully surrounded by an eerie current and touched by ghosts in time for ghouling hour.

For importance’s sake, since Hercule Poirot happens to be one of the longest running murder detectives in literature and on TV (thank you Agatha Christie), the pronunciation of his name should be conquered. Let’s see if you can try it without assistance. If not, here is a video to assist in the French Belgian name. 

Happy Haunting.

Cast includes: Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Jude Hill, Ali Khan, Emma Laird, Kelly Reilly, Riccardo Scamarcio, and Michelle Yeoh.

15th Dallas International Film Festival