A HAUNTING IN VENICE
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Dornan, Kelly Reilly, Camille Cottin, and Jude Hill
Director: Kenneth Branagh
A Haunting in Venice really misses the fun that Kenneth Branagh usually has in his outings as Hercule Poirot. Instead, it leans heavily on horror elements that, while well crafted, create a disorienting effect on the pacing, editing, and acting. The resulting unevenness continuously took me out of the story every time glimpses of the old Poirot pulled me in. Luckily, Branagh slowly returns to form as the film progresses, and along with a standout performance from young Jude Hill, he reminded me just enough why I’ll always watch these Agatha Christie murder mystery adaptations.
This latest Poirot mystery is the best of Kenneth Branagh’s lavish Agatha Christie adaptations. Injected with a dose of gothic horror, the film is wonderfully extravagant, melodramatic, and gorgeous to look at. Branagh draws inspiration from classic cinema, using tried and tested techniques to create an old-fashioned yet very well-crafted and entertaining film. The cast is fantastic, with notable performances from the scene-stealing Michelle Yeoh as the famous medium Joyce Reynolds and Jude Hill as the unsettling young boy, Leopold Ferrier. The film is perfect, if tame, viewing for the coming Halloween season: fun, silly, and spooky without ever being scary.
While I admit that Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot series is formulaic and, overall, nothing special, it still makes for an entertaining murder mystery diversion. In A Haunting in Venice, which is better than Death on the Nile yet nowhere near as good as Murder on the Orient Express, Branagh adds just enough of a horror spin to create a fresh take on a tired genre. Is it perfect? Of course not – it’s a little slow, quasi-predictable, a tad convoluted, and Tina Fey is miscast. That said, it’s an enjoyable enough Agatha Christie adaptation, even if it is disposable.
If you’re already in the Halloween spirit, A Haunting in Venice should be right up your alley. Director Kenneth Branagh returns with another Hercule Poirot mystery, this time adding a welcome touch of horror to the mix. Branagh himself is as entertaining as ever, but his co-star Tina Fey gives an uncharacteristically bland performance. Some of the jump-scares felt a little tacked on, but the stellar cinematography and production design created an atmosphere spooky enough to satisfy my horror cravings. Murder mystery veterans might find the narrative a tad predictable, but the film is still plenty charming regardless.
Back in a starring and directorial role, Kenneth Branagh’s ever-charming and delightful Hercule Poirot returns in a much darker and drearier setting, just in time for Halloween season. Blending nostalgic murder mystery with spectral horror, A Haunting in Venice is still through and through a definitive Hercule Poirot whodunnit at its heart, but Branagh’s flair for Dutch angles and warped cinematography certainly adds to the eerie, unsettled nature of the film. Branagh’s performance excels alongside those of Michelle Yeoh and Jude Hill, both of whom standout from the mixed pack of the supporting cast.
Kenneth Branagh’s A Haunting in Venice is appropriately set in mid-20th century Venice, with all of its mysterious old-world charm and, assuredly, the setting of enough tumultuous events to make one question if there isn’t some eerie spectral force at work. The idiosyncratic, angular, and in-your-face camerawork adds to the suspense and intensifies its actor-focused narrative. Unfortunately, the production takes its toned-down approach a bit too far, and it makes much of the voyage feel like a slog. In the end, we are graciously rewarded for our toil with a conclusion that has all the investigatory panache of its sleuth champion.