April 17, 2024

A Haunting in Venice: 6 major differences between the book and the movie

Published: 2023-09-16T21:45:00

  ❘   Updated: 2023-09-16T21:45:14

When it comes to adaptation, things always get lost in translation, and the same can be said for A Haunting in Venice going from book to movie.

A Haunting in Venice is about to become the newest Agatha Christie-based mystery film, directed by Kenneth Branagh, who will once again be starring as the world-famous detective Hercule Poirot, and follows this synopsis: “Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot investigates a murder while attending a Halloween séance at a haunted palazzo in Venice, Italy.”

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For those familiar with Agatha Christie’s work, they may note that there is no book called A Haunting in Venice. This is because Branagh’s newest film is based – seemingly loosely – on her 1969 novel, Hallowe’en Party.

But what major differences are there between the book and the film, besides the title? Well that’s what we’re here to explain, so read on to find out more. But first, obviously a MAJOR SPOILER WARNING FOR A HAUNTING IN VENICE!

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The story’s location and timespan

20th Century Studios

Hallowe’en Party takes place in the gardens and woods of a small English town, while A Haunting in Venice chooses a more striking location of Venice, Italy. This makes sense, as the city’s Gothic architecture helps set the movie’s spooky tone.

Not only that, but in the original novel, many crimes play out in different settings and across a much longer timeline. A Haunting in Venice instead tightens things down to one night, Halloween night in fact, in order to keep a riveting cinematic experience.

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In the film’s production notes, screenwriter Michael Green is quoted as saying: “There is nothing more haunted than a Venetian palazzo, and the city just calls for mist and masks, and the creepy crawly, throw-a-body-in-the-river kind of feel. We wanted to take advantage and use the inherent spookiness and the magic and luster of Venice, to make an unimaginably terrifying Halloween night.”

Joyce’s age and profession

A Haunting in Venice Book20th Century Studios

The main murder victim in Hallowe’en Party is Joyce Reynolds, a 13-year-old girl who witnesses a murder, and is then murdered herself for knowing too much.

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But the film’s version of Joyce Reynolds is played by Michelle Yeoh, who is obviously not a teenager, and instead of simply being a guest at the party, she is a (hack) supernatural medium, invited to lead a séance at the movie’s main setting.

Ariadne Oliver’s hidden motivations

A Haunting in Venice Tina Fey20th Century Studios

In Hallowe’en Party, Ariadne Oliver is a very genuine person, enlisting Poirot’s help to investigate the book’s murder out of genuine respect for her friend’s sleuthing skills.

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But A Haunting in Venice, while Ariadne and Poirot are still friends, it turns out that she was attempting to fool Poirot into thinking that Joyce’s powers of the supernatural were real, along with ghosts themselves. As a former best-selling, now struggling author, she believes that stumping him will help her create a new story.

The murders are different – and arguably more brutal – in the movie

Dr Leslie Ferrier A Haunting in Venice20th Century Studios

In Hallowe’en Party, Joyce Reynolds is murdered by being drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. While the movie does allude to this – the murderer attempts to drown Poirot in a similar fashion – Joyce Reynolds’ actual death is far more gruesome in the movie, as she she is thrown from a balcony, from which she falls onto a statue and is impaled.

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The death of Dr. Ferrier is also given some extra brutality, as while he is stabbed in the back in both plots, in the movie he is forced to do the deed himself. Though to the movie’s credit, the book has a lot more children being murdered, which perhaps evens both tales out in terms of horrifying deaths.

The murderer was murkier in the book

Rowena Drake A Haunting in Venice20th Century Studios

In Hallowe’en Party, there are multiple murderers, but the film streamlines them down into just one: Rowena Drake, although her murders also span over multiple timelines. To find out how these murders play out exactly, click here.

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This change from the book is likely to prevent the shorter movie story from feeling convoluted, and to keep the motivations of the character feeling more poignant.

A Haunting in Venice believes in the supernatural

A Haunting in Venice Supernatural20th Century Studios

Hallowe’en Party is a straightforward murder mystery, no ghosts or ghouls allowed. But in A Haunting in Venice, Poirot experiences what appear to be genuine supernatural experiences. While it’s revealed that he had been drugged with hallucinogenic honey for a lot of the movie, the way that Rowena Drake falls off the balcony during the movie’s climax suggests to our hero that there are some things that even he cannot explain.

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A Haunting in Venice is now in cinemas. For more horror content, click here.

You can check out our other coverage of the movie below:

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