November 13, 2023

Poirot Gets Spooked in A HAUNTING IN VENICE

2023 / 103 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😽
A Haunting in Venice is now available on Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD November 28.

Director-star Kenneth Branagh's third go-round as legendary detective Hercule Poirot adds a dash of the supernatural to his usual crime-solving exploits. While A Haunting in Venice isn’t quite as intriguing or complex as Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile, it’s a fairly entertaining entry in the franchise. 

Mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) coaxes Poirot out of retirement to attend a seance conducted by self-declared medium Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), who was hired by Rowena Drake in hopes of communicating with her dead daughter, Alicia. Oliver challenges perpetually skeptical Poirot to prove Joyce is a fraud. However, during the seance and supposedly speaking through Joyce, Alicia claims she was murdered by one of the others in attendance.

Shortly afterwards, Joyce herself is killed. As a storm builds outside the dilapidated orphanage where the seance took place (and where Alicia died), Poirot insists on locking everyone inside and questioning the suspects individually. These scenes are when the film is most effective…Poirot on the case, interrogating an eclectic cast of characters in his usual detached-but-forceful manner. As with other Poirot novels and the two previous films, there’s comfort in the formula and Branagh has long-since made the character his own (though I still believe Albert Finney did it best).

"My hat's cooler."
But unlike the novel on which it’s (very) loosely based (Hallowe’en Party), A Haunting in Venice unnecessarily throws paranormal elements into the narrative. I don’t know if this was to create more of a horror atmosphere, but if so, it tends to undermine the primary appeal of the Poirot franchise. While I can’t speak for everybody, the character’s methods and unflappable detective skills are what makes him enjoyable…not self-doubt and vulnerability when genuine phantasms figure into the story.

Still, A Haunting in Venice is primarily a whodunit with enough moments of genuine sleuthing to make it worthwhile. This time around, the secondary characters aren’t quite as interesting and the outcome is a tad more predictable, but like the previous two films, it’s gorgeously shot and features a solid ensemble cast.


MURDER, DEATH AND HAUNTING - 26 min making-of featurette.


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