‘A Haunting in Venice’ Review: A Haunted House Whodunit
By: Liam Murphy
Last weekend, Kenneth Branagh dropped his third entry of Agatha Christie adaptations following Hercule Poirot. Loosely adapted from Christie's halloween party, Branagh changed the setting and time period to develop more interesting and resonant themes.
Instead of 1969 England, 1947 Venice is a fantastic setting to explore the post-WW2 trauma and grief of the central characters.
In the past I’ve been ambivalent towards this series but this one hooked me in right away. The Venice palazzo that the film takes place in is a gripping, spooky location helped by real lightning, high-angle camera angles, and on-location filming spots. The space itself is haunting and the camera moves in such a way to always keep you on edge.
I wouldn’t say it's super scary but it is definitely spooky with a mystery reminiscent of Scooby Doo with how it handles supernatural elements. The staging is evocative and spending so much time in this one space allows you to become familiar with the space making it easier for the audience to solve the mystery.
In the past I’ve had issues with how these mysteries were laid out. In 2015’s Murder on the Orient Express, the twist comes out of nowhere and is way too unpredictable, while 2022’s Death on the Nile has the exact opposite problem. In the latter film, the culprit is far too obvious. Here, all the evidence is laid out and given to the audience in a non-linear way to allow viewers to solve the whodunit before Poirot does which is the whole fun of watching this genre.
The cast here is far less stacked than previous entries but still relatively solid. Branagh obviously loves playing this silly Belgian detective and is having a blast. Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Dornan, and especially child actor Jude Hill all lend memorable performances.The only performance I didn't care for was Tina Fey, who played up the camp and period setting far too much and took me out of the movie.
In the past these movies have been decently performing crowd-pleasers but the darker shift in tone and subject matter might turn a couple returning away which sucks because this is a pretty good movie. It's a solid piece of old-school, mid-budget genre filmmaking we don’t see too much from major studios. It's definitely worth checking out for a solid and spooky little mystery.