Courtesy 20th Century Studios

Movie Review: A Haunting in Venice

07:00 September 19, 2023
By: Fritz Esker

I am a fan of mystery novels, so I am happy that actor/director Kenneth Branagh has actually been able to establish a movie franchise for one of literature's most famous detectives, Hercule Poirot. The new film with Branagh as Poirot, A Haunting in Venice, is adapted from one of Agatha Christie's lesser known books and adds an element of horror to the Poirot mysteries.

In a story that bears very little resemblance to Christie's text, a retired Poirot in post-WWII Venice is approached by old friend and bestselling author Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) to investigate a medium (Michelle Yeoh) who is about to perform a séance to summon the recently deceased daughter of a famous opera singer (Kelly Reilly).

Of course, murder happens. The cast is then locked into a supposedly haunted house in the midst of a severe storm as Poirot, suffering from a head injury after a mysterious assault, tries to figure out what happened. There are hints that ghosts from the house's past during the plague are still active and angry with the living. But Poirot is insistent it can all be explained rationally. Like most ghost stories, Venice's main thematic thrust is about characters coming to grips with the pain of their past.

I would rank A Haunting in Venice a bit higher than Branagh's second Poirot film, Death on the Nile. Venice is tighter, running about 20 minutes shorter than Nile. While I've read many locked-room murder mysteries, the plausible solution to a locked-room murder in Venice is one I've truly never read before (kudos to screenwriter Michael Green for that). I was able to figure out the identity of the murderer, but the solution to one of the story's secondary mysteries did catch me off guard.

Whether you're a mystery fan or a fan of ghost stories, A Haunting in Venice is worth a look.

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