Premiered September 15, 2023.
Dateline:Venice, Italy, October 31, 1947.
Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), the world's greatest detective, has retired from solving crimes and now lives a quiet life in Venice. His bodyguard, a former policeman named Vitale Portfoglio (Riccardo Scamarcio), protects Poirot from people who seek his detective services and those who would harm him.
Since the end of World War II, Venice has been occupied by U.S. troops. The Americans have brought their Halloween traditions with them. Venetian children are wearing costumes and marching in a Halloween parade.
Poirot is visited by mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), who has written stories based on Poirot's exploits. She invites Poirot and Vitale to attend a séance at a villa owned by opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly). The séance will be conducted by a medium named Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh). Oliver wants Poirot to expose Drake as a charlatan.
We learn that the villa used to be an orphanage that is allegedly haunted by spirits of children left to die during the plague epidemic.
As the evening progresses, strange, seemingly supernatural events occur and dead bodies begin to pile up in the villa. Is the villa truly haunted? Or is there a more conventional explanation for the multiple deaths? The only man who can answer those questions and solve the mystery is Hercule Poirot!
J.A. Morris says:
I am reluctant to say much about the plot of A Haunting In Venice because to do so would spoil it. I've read some Agatha Christie stories, but I was completely unfamiliar with this Hercule Poirot adventure. In short, this is a typical Christie mystery, with the added bonus that it takes place on Halloween! If you're a fan of Christie and Halloween (like I am), you will enjoy A Haunting In Venice.
This film marks the third time Kenneth Branagh has portrayed Poirot. He's as good as ever and Branagh also directed A Haunting In Venice. The rest of the cast provides good support and it's beautifully filmed. Branagh creates an atmosphere that makes the villa feel creepy and otherworldly.
While I enjoyed this movie, I didn't feel that it took enough advantage of the fact that it was a theatrical film. It looked great on the big screen, but it just felt like a "very good TV movie," nothing more, nothing less. It could've used a few more jump scares too.
However, it's still lots of fun and it's something I could see watching around Halloween in the future. A Haunting In Venice is recommended, but it's limitations keep me from giving it a higher rating.
J.A. Morris' rating:
2 and a half jack-o-lanterns.
A Haunting in Venice is an entertaining whodunit with a creepy edge. 1940s Halloween costumes are creepy all by themselves, and we get a well-staged séance, creepy visions, disembodied voices and murder to boot.
The story is rather loosely based on Agatha Christie's 1969 book Hallowe'en Party. But it mostly only retains the children's party, an incident involving bobbing for apples and several character names. I guess the Venice setting was deemed more visually interesting than an English country house? That being said, the Venetian setting does give us a reason (a bad storm) to keep Poirot and suspects trapped in the spooky haunted orphanage. Moreover, Venice's traditions of masquerade and carnival fit in nicely as a backdrop to the Halloween proceedings.
I enjoyed Poirot's skepticism of the supernatural and its juxtaposition with the weird setting and possibly supernatural occurrences. Kenneth Branagh does a great job of portraying Poirot's ego and skepticism during the course of the film. Michelle Yeoh is excellent as the medium Joyce Reynolds and Tina Fey does fine as the Christie-esque author Ariadne Oliver.
I like how the film uses its post-WW2 setting to develop themes regarding people being haunted by their war experiences, it adds a bit of depth to the proceedings.
There were elements of the plot that felt a bit cliched and underwritten at times, but the setting and the actors make A Haunting in Venice worthwhile.