A Haunting in Venice Parent Guide
Anxious, dark, and haunted, this non-canonical appropriation of Agatha Christie's famous detective is more a supernatural thriller than a whodunit.
Parent Movie Review
World War II has ended, and Venice is once again a city of light, color…and tourists. Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) has not come to see the sights: he’s attempting to retire from his life of private detective work, with the aid of a personal bodyguard (Riccardo Scamarcio) to deter determined supplicants for his unique services. But he can’t turn away an old friend…
Author Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) has been investigating a psychic medium, Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), and can’t crack her methods – only the little grey cells of the infamous Hercule Poirot will be able to do that. So Poirot finds himself cajoled into attending a Halloween party at a former orphanage, now the home of opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly). Drake wishes to contact her deceased daughter, who drowned outside the house, so she has enlisted Joyce Reynolds to come perform a séance.
Tragically, the young girl’s demise was not the first death on these storied premises and it won’t be the last. When another person is murdered and an attempt is made on Poirot’s life, old stories of the orphanage’s ghosts begin to swirl. Poirot is no believer in ghost stories, but in the dim light of lanterns, he must follow the facts of the case, and soon they lead him in a direction he never expected to go…
Despite claims that it’s an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel Hallowe’en Party, this film retains only a few character names and the Halloween setting. It’s more of a supernatural thriller than an old-fashioned murder mystery, and fans of other of Poirot’s adventures might find this new direction an unwelcome change of a familiar pace. A Haunting in Venice is much darker and more frightening than other adaptations of Christie’s work and is completely unsuitable for young or sensitive viewers. Violence is more graphic and themes are more somber than in other retellings of the Queen of Crime’s stories, so don’t go in to the theater expecting some lighthearted scares for the spookiest season of the year.
Overall, this production is a very mixed bag, with some of the more frightening elements being the most successful. In another qualified success, the film manages to convey some of the ongoing trauma from the recently concluded of the Second World War, and sees a version of our little Belgian detective haunted by the ghosts of his own past. Every character, in fact, is plagued by some private darkness, and a miasma of general anxiety fills the dark corners of each scene.
Patchy dialogue and odd editing (as well as enough Dutch angle shots to qualify the film for a passport from the Netherlands) make this take on Agatha Christie less satisfying than I think a closer adaptation would have been, but strong performances from the cast and beautiful cinematography make the film worth looking at, even for long-time fans bound to be frustrated with all the non-canonical liberties. To paraphrase another writer of mystery, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it seems that the filmmakers have insensibly begun to twist their source material to suit their story, instead of the story to suit the source.Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Kenneth Branagh, Kelly Reilly, Michelle Yeoh. Running time: 104 minutes. Theatrical release September 15, 2023. Updated September 15, 2023
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A Haunting in Venice
Rating & Content Info
Why is A Haunting in Venice rated PG-13? A Haunting in Venice is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some strong violence, disturbing images and thematic elements.
Violence: There are several graphic depictions of a drowning which is alleged to be either the result of suicide or murder. A character is shoved out of a window and is impaled on a statue below. Several individuals are cut with a garden implement. A character commits suicide by stabbing himself. Two characters engage in a fistfight.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There a single scatological curse word, and infrequent uses of mild profanities and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are very briefly seen drinking socially.
Page last updated September 15, 2023
Loved this movie? Try these books…
You can read Agatha Christie’s original Hallowe’en Party and decide what you think of Kenneth Branagh’s departures from the English village tale. Other Christie novels which feature supernatural elements include Endless Night, The Pale Horse, And Then There Were None, The Mysterious Mr. Quin, and The Sittaford Mystery.
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Branagh’s other adventures as this fastidious solver of crime include Murder on the Orient Expressand Death on the Nile. Other modern takes on vintage detective stories include Sherlock Holmesand Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. See How They Run is full of references to Christie’s work.