In “The Sixth Sense,” Haley Joel Osment plays Cole Sear, a young boy plagued by the spirits of dead people, beings who are drawn to him thanks to his titular ability of perception. These poor souls don’t know they’re dead, and each of them has an unfulfilled duty or need that they must have help completing before they can move on to the afterlife. Through the help of child psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), Cole learns to communicate with the dead and find ways to help them move on — especially and including Crowe himself, who turns out to be a ghost.
The idea of the spirits of the dead crying out for unfulfilled justice is a recurring trope in stories of the supernatural, and unsurprisingly it’s all over “A Haunting in Venice.” Branagh’s Poirot has already been established as a man who cannot bear to allow misdeeds to go unsolved or unpunished, and so the murder of Alicia Drake (Rowan Robinson), as semi-accidental as it turns out to be, is insulting to both the detective and Alicia’s wandering spirit. The palazzo in which the film takes place isn’t just haunted by poor Alicia, either, as the building’s history supposedly contains the ghosts of numerous children who were left there to die during the darkest days of the Black Plague.
The film also has its very own Cole Sear in the form of Leopold Ferrier (Jude Hill), a young boy of about the same age who is as much of a believer in the supernatural as he is precociously intelligent beyond his years. Hill even resembles a young Osment, no more so than when he’s insisting to the skeptical Poirot that the spirits of the dead surround the palazzo.