After witnessing the promotional materials of A Haunting in Venice, many are still wondering if it is actually a horror movie.
While Hercule Poirot usually gets asked to solve murders, this time around, he’s asked for a quick favor by an old friend: come witness a séance and see if he can spot the ruse.
Begrudgingly, the detective accepts. Before long, he finds himself stuck with a group of people who may or may not have murdered an innocent person following the séance.
As previous trailers make clear, the movie wants audiences, and Hercule Poirot himself, to think the crime was done by something supernatural—whether that be evil spirits or a straight-up ghost.
Is A Haunting in Venice a Horror Film?
In several exclusive interviews, The Direct spoke with multiple key creatives behind the upcoming movie, A Haunting in Venice, about the film's horror elements. The talented creatives included cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, production designer John Paul Kelly, and producer James Pritchard.
One of the unique parts of Kenneth Branagh’s next Hercule Poirot adventure is how it’s marketed heavily as a horror movie—a vibe that certainly plays out in the actual film.
So how exactly did the creative team lean into that horror element?
Kelly admitted that they “were cautious of it” at first, but they aimed to make the film’s setting had more to offer than just the standard haunted house tricks:
“I mean, we were cautious of it because I think the problem is you can very easily veer into kind of a one-liner of a spooky house. Once you do get that in Venice, you know... the boat house where the boats come in is exactly what you expect a haunted house to be. There's rats, there's chains clanking against the walls, and water streaming down the walls, and, you know, it's the dark, dank, scary basement poorly lit. So, it's what you expect a haunted house to be, but we were very adamant that the rest of the house should offer other tricks.”
According to the production designer, they worked hard to “keep the environment sort of varied and interesting:”
“We wanted lots of emotions, so you had cathedral-like spaces with... angels looking down from 20 meters above the actors were. Huge cast iron fretwork and ironwork everywhere that would throw long shadows... We created kind of labyrinth-like spaces on the top floor that maybe felt a bit more like an enchanted forest. We like the reference of maybe a bird in a gilded cage for Alicia [Drake] locked in her bedroom. So once we drew on the kind of, I suppose, the more obvious horror spooky house references, we kind of tried to imagine a lot of other ones as well to keep the environment sort of varied and interesting.”
Coming out of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, Pritchard admitted how “the main difference they were looking for [in the next movie] was tonal” and that adapting Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party “was a great launchpad” to do just that:
"… I think the main difference they were looking for [in the next movie] was tonal. They wanted to play a little bit with the horror genre, and they felt a 'Hallowe'en Party' was a great launchpad into that."
When asked about what it was like preserving A Haunting in Venice’s horror throughout its development, Pritchard gave full credit to Branagh, teasing how “some of the fear you see is genuine:”
“I think that all comes down to [Kenneth Branagh], in terms of taking the script and making that atmosphere, keeping that tone... I mean, I didn't spend a lot of time on set because it was at the tail end of COVID, and people were being very careful. And they didn't want outsiders on there. But I understand that he kind of deliberately scared the cast when they were on set. So, actually, some of the fear you see is genuine. He didn't tell them what was coming. He didn't tell them what was going to happen. So I think that's part of maintaining the tone and the spirit of the movie.”
As for weaving the horror elements into the soundtrack of the movie, Guðnadóttir noted that it all happened “rather naturally:”
“Well, I'm a huge fan of Agatha Christie, and I'm a huge fan of the genre of the detective story and the... mystery genre and the horror genre. So, for me, it was quite fun to weave all of these elements together. It happened rather naturally, somewhat... It all seemed to make a lot of sense to me when it came together…”
She elaborated on how “those sounds that were very prominent” during the movie’s time period “[leant themselves] very well to the horror genre:”
“… I was really working into the period element of the film, I was really working into referencing what was what was happening musically at this time. Luckily, those sounds that were very prominent at this moment in music history, like these extended techniques of wind instruments, for example, lend themselves very well to the horror genre... A lot of these sounds that are happening at [that] time... [make] for great material for good jump scares.”
A Haunting in Venice's Scary Scenes Explained
While many might see the marketing of A Haunting in Venice and think the movie won’t retain that horror vibe, surprisingly, it manages to keep it going for the majority of its run time.
But is there actually anything supernatural afoot in this new Hercule Poirot story? Fans will need to watch the movie to find out the answer to that question.
Either way, Haunting’s unique atmosphere and horror-tinged approach give the project a much more distinct and stylized feel compared to the last installments.
Compared to both Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, A Haunting in Venice is also far more original. The movie features a long list of differences between the source material and the film it’s adapted from.
This may rub some the wrong way, but others will feel the changes are necessary when telling the story in another medium—especially when the original is already so established.
A Haunting in Venice hits theaters on Friday, September 15.