A Haunting in Venice

Directed By Kenneth Branagh

Starring – Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Yeoh, Tina Fey

The Plot – In post-World War II Venice, Poirot (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.

Rated PG-13 for some strong violence, disturbing images and thematic elements

(1) A Haunting In Venice | Official Trailer | In Theaters Sept 15 – YouTube


This time around, Poitot not only expertly helps solve a murder mystery, but stumbles onto a full-fledged horror film, which rubs off seamlessly towards Branagh’s own directoral execution, making this feel creatively diverse from either of the previous two films. Branagh has certainly did his homework manifesting such an ominous atmospheric rendering, complete with an eerily unsettling claustrophobic mansion set in warmth of Venice’s downtown district, uncomfortable framing in imagery with lucidly sleek camera movements, and of course some meticulously executed jump scares, which surprisingly justify themselves remarkably in the way they’re properly manufactured. Because of such, Branagh conjures a thickness of tension and mystique in ambiance that continuously hints that anything is possible, and with a series of eclectic characters portrayed by such a remarkable ensemble, Branagh brings each of them to life with much clouded speculation that only drives each of their motives accordingly. As previously conveyed, each of these actors and actresses have ample time to shine in the occasion, without a weak link between them, but for my money it’s the measured cadence of Fey balancing dark humor with scenes surrounded in tension, Jamie Dornan carrying a burdening weight that constantly puts his character in emotional duress, and of course Branagh himself, who once more seamlessly transforms into the world’s best detective. Poirot’s typical mental articulance is firmly on display here, but this time with an unabiding confidence to his assesments that not only wear the weight of many succesful investigations in the rich history of his character, but also in cutting like a knife towards his various oppositions, whom he makes short work expertly dissecting. On top of all of this, the script is much improved from 2020’s “Death on the Nile”, this time surmising Poirot’s own supernatural disbelief within a mystery that constantly challenges his premature thesis. This lends itself towards such an intriguing narrative, but beyond that an overall mystery that isn’t as diffcult to follow as its predecessors, with detailed exposition between characters that still finds unique ways to generate answers for a movie that is essentially overstuffed with them. Aside from Branagh bearing a double threat towards the movie’s integrity, much praise goes to longtime Branagh collaborator Haris Zambarloukos, whose spellbinding cinematography here luminates a darkly damp mansion with an abundance of game-changing secrets, as well as first time Branagh collaborator Hildur Guonadottir, whose scintillating score envelopes the storytelling and various situations in an echoing wave of urgency that transpires soundly without completely overstepping the integrity of the performances. Like his decorated ensemble, Branagh has taken time to carefully pluck some of the biggest geniuses in their respective crafts to influence the engagement, and because of such we’re left with a moody atmospheric canvas that feels appropriately giftwrapped for the upcoming Halloween movie season, all without ever coming close to overstaying its welcome in the 98 minute duration that make up the entirety of the engagement.


Though Branagh and Poirot sift through what is easily their single best installment of the franchise, with a picture perfect production, there are still a couple of off-beat decisions in the script that I wish were ironed out accordingly towards keeping them from nagging at my subconscious, even minutes after leaving the theater. The first and more vital of the two, is the big reveal of the mystery itself, which is not only predictable in the way the investigation tiptoes around this character, but also a bit difficult to fully buy into the magnitude of events that this character was asked to pull off without issue. Because I accurately picked this person at around the movie’s half hour mark, without fully understanding the magnitude of their motive, it left me with a lethargically stunted feeling of waiting for the movie to catch up to my assumption, and when all was revealed I still felt a little underwhelmed with how it was all pieced together, despite the climax going out of its way to detail every single movement. The second and perhaps less important issue to audiences not as concerned with characterization as I am, is with the distrusting subplot of Poirot not believing in supernatural beings or entities. I found this aspect of the character study to be the most fascinating, so I’m certainly not disappointed about its inclusion, but rather its execution, which I feel deserved more attention than the kind that were met at simply surface level. Considering Poirot is the only character we’ve spent every movie with to this point, he still frustratingly feels like the one we know the least about, and with an arc in opportunity at something that feels so deeply personal to him, I wish the film explored it with the persistence it deserves, but instead it’s just a glimpse into the man defined by speculation at this point.

“A Haunting in Venice” puts the pride back in Poirot, with an expertly transformative direction from Branagh, who seamlessly executes the aspects of horror with homage and especially effectiveness. Though some story points don’t fully live up to the promise of their superior counterparts, the film’s enigmatic ensemble electrify when the thrills are tangible, leading to not only the best of the Poirot franchise, but also one of the best murder mysteries of contemporary times.

My Grade: 8/10 or B

3 thoughts on “A Haunting in Venice

  1. As someone that thought Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile were just okay, I completely agree that this is the best of all three films. Kenneth Branagh truly makes these films both in front and behind the camera. It’s also nice to see him adapt so well to a new genre that makes this such a refreshing addition to the series. That being said, I was a bit underwhelmed by the scares myself which is why I didn’t go quite as high. The atmosphere is definitely solid, but I found the jolts to never be as effective as I hoped they would be. I also found the big reveal of the mystery to be predictable like you did which made the ending feel less impactful. Still a solid film and another great critique from you as well!

  2. I’m excited to see this film. The description of the scenery, cinematography, acting, and score sound like a good watch. Let’s see if I can figure out the big reveal around the same mark you did. A game of mystery within a mystery. I’ll try to remember to let you know once I get a chance to watch the movie.

  3. I really enjoyed this one! Once I was able to adjust to Pirots accent, and get into the mystery I found it to be very interesting! I was surprised to see Tina Fey in a serious role, and I enjoyed the supernatural elements and spooky ambience! Definitely worth checking out!

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