I remember when I first saw the trailer for A Haunting in Venice in the movie theater. The spooky opening first had me believing it was a horror film, and I thought, “Oh man, this looks scary; I don’t know if I could handle this in the theater.” Then up pops Kenneth Branagh with his Hercule Poirot mustache, and my immediate response was, “Darn it, well, now I’m in.”
I label myself as an “Agatha Christie newbie.” I’m definitely a fan of the famous mystery writer’s storytelling style, but so far I’ve only seen a scattering of adaptations. If I see the tagline “based on an Agatha Christie tale,” I’m immediately excited to watch a film or miniseries, however.
I enjoyed both of the previous two Kenneth Branagh films where he plays Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express and 2022’s Death on the Nile. Somehow, I remained unspoiled about any of the plot twists in either of those movies, despite the fact they’re classic stories and have been around for many years. Sometimes being clueless pays off!
I generally enjoyed both those films, but I think A Haunting in Venice is my favorite of the trilogy. It’s spooky without being too scary, and there are some surprisingly rich and layered characters filling out the cast of suspects. No spoilers here, but you’ll quickly develop assumptions about some of these characters, only to have the story turn those assumptions around.
The story begins when an acquaintance invites Poirot to a Halloween party followed by a seance. Poirot, obviously, believes the set-up is fake. However, the events that follow cause him to start questioning his own deductive powers and his beliefs about reality.
Although the supporting cast is, on the surface, not quite as star-studded as the other two films, there are some wonderful performances to be found here. The (presumably) haunted house and the late 1940s Venice backdrop are practically characters in and of themselves. I didn’t need to see this film in IMAX to appreciate the gorgeous cinematography and lush setting, but it sure looked good on a giant screen.
Of course Michelle Yeoh is wonderful in this film, and she was easily my favorite of the supporting characters. She plays a medium who may or may not be faking her supernatural abilities. Her verbal sparring with Poirot is extremely entertaining.
Overall, I really enjoyed the film and look forward to adding it to my “favorite movies to watch around Halloween” list.