With the rainy season on its way, now is the time to pull on a heavy sweater, grab a cup of tea, and get immersed in a whodunit. It was this exact sentiment that I sat down to immerse myself in the latest Poirot mystery film, A Haunting in Venice directed and starring Kenneth Branagh.
We were provided a screener for this review. All thoughts and opinions our own.
In A Haunting in Venice, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is clearly depressed and has exiled himself to Venice, Italy. When friend and writer Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) invites him to a Halloween party and seance, Poirot accepts. Upon arriving at the palazzo Poirot meets Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly) who owns the palazzo but admits it has fallen into disrepair. She is grieving the death of her daughter and realizes that it may be time to let the palazzo go. Also in attendance is Jaime Dornan as a very troubled doctor and his creepy son Leopold (played by the magnificent Jude Hill.) Michelle Yeoh plays Mrs Reynolds, a medium who can seemingly communicate with the dead.
Mrs. Reynolds insists on a seance because she is convinced the opera singer’s daughter who died one year prior is trying to communicate from the other side. When another partygoer ends up dead, Poirot reluctantly takes on the case. He asks Ariadne to help him interview guests of the palazzo and the later the evening gets, the creepier the palazzo becomes.
A Haunting in Venice feels much darker than any previous Hercule Poirot film by Kenneth Branagh. The film is dimly lit but not in a way where you can’t see what is happening on the screen. The set designer clearly had fun creating the look of a haunted palazzo in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. In fact, the palazzo that hosts the Halloween party (the vintage masks guests wear are terrifying) feels like an additional character, looming large over Rowena and her grief.
With a mixture of shadow work and a handful of jump scares, Branagh increases the suspense at a brisk pace and you can feel Poirot’s confusion and concern about not being able to explain the palazzo’s anomalies. Since Poirot takes such an analytical approach when attempting to solve a murder, he is clearly affected by not being able to explain the ghostly apparitions and unexplainable deaths.
Despite A Haunting in Venice being less dense than Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, it works for two reasons. 1. Branagh plays Poirot differently in this film. He’s tired and clearly uninspired despite his success. 2. Branagh has a powerful cast opposite him with the likes of Michelle Yeoh, Jaime Dornan, Kelly Reilly, and Camille Cottin. Every single character is compelling and that’s rare to see in a film these days.
A Haunting in Venice isn’t perfect, but it’s a hell of an entertaining film celebrating vintage Hollywood and a detective who doesn’t let seasonal depression get in the way of unmasking a murderer.
A Haunting in Venice is now available on Digital and on Blu-ray and DVD November 28.
Murder, Death and Haunting: Discover the secrets behind the scenes of A HAUNTING IN VENICE. Join Kenneth Branagh and his team as they bring Agatha Christie’s classic Poirot novel ‘Hallowe’en Party’ to life with elaborate ensemble scenes and extravagant sets.
Deleted Scenes: Check out these scenes that didn’t make the final cut:
- Morning Routine
- The Doge’s Palace
- Halloween Party Extended
- Desdemona’s Warning
- Children’s Story
- Poirot Needs Air
- Guarding The Gates
- Secret Doorway Extended
- Ferrier’s Shouts
- Poirot Pauses for Thought
- Journey Home
*Bonus features vary by product and retailer