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This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.

"A Haunting in Venice keeps up Poirot’s post 2017-cinematic streak on a decently entertaining path."
Haunting in Venice

The third entry in Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot adaptations. A Haunting in Venice is set in post-World War II Venice, Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), 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.

After both the largely mediocre (yet still perfectly watchable) adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, I was a tad sceptical about this latest Poirot adventure, especially with the incredibly short turnaround time between features (Death on the Nile was only released in February 2022). However, with a lower budget and tighter focused approach, Branagh manages to craft a solid horror tinged spin on the Poirot formula in time for Halloween.

Haunting in Venice

With a tight 103 minute runtime, the film wastes no time setting sail (on a gondola) to its spooky one location destination where the mystery and murder begins. This is inspired by Christie’s short story Hallowe’en Party, with a setting switch up and a myriad of external elements added to beef up the material to feature length. This thin plot skeleton is a hindrance as the film is clearly padded to maximum justification and certain elements (especially the finale wrap up can feel rushed and anticlimactic).

That’s not to say what we get here isn’t good, it’s just nothing you haven’t seen before. The investigation routine is comfortably familiar, even with the questioning routine feeling more erratic and spiky than its predecessors and your mind will quickly start whirring and accusing left right and centre. I do wish the supernatural angle was further explored and more prominent in its execution, however its a refreshing coat of ghostly paint on the traditional material and I appreciate the filmmakers commitment to delving into it.

Haunting in Venice

Where the feature excels is in its tone, direction and visual aesthetic. Compared to the glossy, digital blockbuster grandiosity and bombast of its predecessors, this lower budget, stripped down and frequently beautiful to look at film is a refreshing and authentic visual pleaser. Branagh doubles down on Dutch angles, extended and exaggerated perspectives, first person POV’s, whip-cracking editing, handheld, spinning and jump scares. He goes all out and it keeps the film consistently visually engaging, especially coupled with the immersive sets and props.

This third instalment probably has the least memorable cast of suspects, though the performances are strong. Branagh still absolutely devours the scenery and relishes every moustached moment as Poirot. Hamming up the accent, nailing the demeanour and quirks to near perfection. Tina Fey is the highlight supporting role as the snappy, fast talking and snarky author friend of Poirot’s. Michelle Yeoh brings a mysterious, stony presence to her brief appearance and Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill have an interesting father/son dynamic.

A Haunting in Venice keeps up Poirot’s post 2017-cinematic streak on a decently entertaining path. The spooky atmosphere, superb stylistic and directional elements,

immersive atmosphere and solid performances, balance out the familiar traits and tropes, pacing problems and lack of genuine scares and thrills.



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