After Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and Death on the Nile (2022), this year’s A Haunting in Venice marks the third time Kenneth Branagh stars in and directs a feature based on the famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The film is based on Agatha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party and blends the classic Gothic ghost story with the typical whodunnit Poirot is famed for.
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A Haunting in Venice review
The movie starts with Poirot hiding in Venice and refusing to take on further detective work. The former policeman, Vitale Portfolio (Riccardo Scamarcio), is his bodyguard, whose sole mission is to keep everyone away from the weary sleuth.
Poirot’s old friend, the crime novelist Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), manages to sneak past Vitale and talks the detective into joining her at a Halloween party hosted by the retired Opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly). It appears Rowena is holding a seance and invited the famed medium, Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), to help her communicate with her deceased daughter, Alicia (Rowan Robinson). Ariadne expects Poirot to help unmask Joyce as a fraud.
At the party, the detective meets the rest of the characters (read: murder suspects). There’s the housekeeper with a fear of the supernatural, Olga Seminoff (Camille Cottin), Rowena’s doctor, Leslie Ferrier (Jamie Dornan) with his son Leopold (Jude Hill), and Joyce’s two assistants, the siblings, Desdemona (Emma Laird) and Nicholas (Ali Khan).
The murderer does accidentally attack Poirot first before moving on to their true intended victim, Joyce. Now personally involved, the detective comes out of retirement and vows to get to the bottom of this mystery before daybreak. Complicating things further are ghost stories suggesting that whoever killed Joyce may be spectral.
Some might argue that the whodunit murder mystery is a tired genre that peaked decades ago when Agatha Christie was still churning out Hercule Poirot novels. However, there’s still a charm to the premise of locking a group of people in a mansion, killing one of them, and figuring out who is ultimately guilty.
Whodunnit with hints of horror
Aside from the ghostly jump scares, which may or may not be real, A Haunting in Venice sticks to the formula of the letter. The characters are two-dimensional and out of touch. Hercule Poirot is the most clever man in the room, and the mystery is intriguing enough to keep the story engaging.
What makes this movie unique is its star-studded cast helmed by Branagh as Poirot. He adds layers to this character and truly makes the role his own. The film and the previous two in the franchise are worth watching for his performance alone. And then there are stars like Tina Fey, who is excellent in a non-comedic role, and Michelle Yeoh, who delivers the most terrifying seance scene in a non-horror film I’ve ever seen.
The cinematography is well done. Most of the movie is set inside this one building. Despite its size, the viewer does get a sense of being locked in with the characters.
There are some questionable editing decisions, like the obnoxious POV shots, but the film does have that ghost story horror feel while keeping the spectral elements ambiguous up until the very end.
Overall, this is a fun murder mystery that successfully blends horror elements. The cast performances elevate it from a typical made-for-television whodunit to a feature that’s worth experiencing on the big screen.
What are other critics saying about A Haunting in Venice (Video Reviews):
Chris Stuckmann praised the cast performances and enjoyed the combined elements of the murder mystery with the horror genre.
Austin Burke gave the film a positive review and was particularly complimentary of Branagh’s performance.
Movies and Munchies loved the cinematography, the spectral elements, and the star performances.
Lori C. is an entertainment writer who studied Film and Television at University. She watches and reviews films and series from most genres, but some of her favourites include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, and True Blood.