A Haunting In Venice Review

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Plot: In post-World War II Venice, Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once again uncover the killer.
Film: A Haunting In Venice

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Writer: Michael Green

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, Michelle Yeoh

It's exceptionally difficult to set a film in Venice and not have it turn out to be beautiful, and this film is no exception. The vibrant city has a way of life not known many other places, the city on water with it's gothic architecture, romantic atmosphere and Poirot's, twice daily, dockside deliveries of pastries, makes this the perfect setting to lull you into a false sense of security before throwing you into a jarring ghost story and of course; a murder or two. 

Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) has retired, content to live a comfortable life in his beautiful venetian home, with a rooftop view to kill for and his hired bodyguard Vitale (Riccardo Scamarcio) keeps away the would-be clients, so desperate for help from the formally great Hercule Poirot. When a woman turns up at Poirot's home, claiming to be an old friend, the story really begins. Author Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) is largely responsible for Poirot's fame and as the second smartest person she knows, she wishes to enlist his help to prove the authenticity of infamous medium Mrs. Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), as she herself can find no illusion and fears becoming a believer. 

The potential exposé leads Poirot and Oliver to a Halloween party at the home of Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly) whose daughter Alicia (Rowan Robinson) committed suicide and Rowena, in her grief, seeks to talk to her daughter again via a seance performed by Mrs Reynolds. Also joining the cast is Alicia ex-fiancé Maxime (Kyle Allen), family friend and physician Dr Ferrier (Jamie Dornan) and his son Leopold (Jude Hill) and Mrs Reynolds assistants Desdemona (Emma Laird) and Nicholas (Ali Khan). 

The setting for the party happens to be an infamously haunted building as it is, complete with a terrifying tale of what happened to those who died there. While this isn’t the sort of horror film to leave you shaken, the way Kenneth Branagh so seamlessly blends realism and the supernatural is worth praising. As a firm non-believer who is also a massive fan on the horror genre, I enjoyed watching another non-believer struggle to make sense of what he was seeing, and I couldn’t wait to see how the Detective pieced the story together -but is A Haunting In Venice your usual mystery?

This latest Agatha Christie adaptation comes with a more modest, but no less talented, ensemble of actors than the previous instalments to Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot. While I think the strength of the plot was sacrificed for creating a more aesthetic product, the eerie backstory and grandiose location still make for a good mid-week watch.

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