🎞️ When is A Haunting in Venice out in cinemas: 15 September, 2023
⭐️ Our rating: 3/5
🎭 Who's in it? Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Yeoh, Tina Fey, Jamie Dornan, Kelly Reilly.
👍 What we liked: The film's A-list cast bring the story to life, Kenneth Branagh transports Agatha Christie's original story from England to Venice well.
👎 What we didn't: While the cast and location are spectacular they are let down by the story, which is missing the magic of Christie's writing.
📖 What's it about? Hercule Poirot is retired from detective work, but he finds himself unable to turn away from the mystery of a death caused by seemingly supernatural means, and the events that takes place after a chilling séance.
After adapting Agatha Christie's most iconic Poirot novels Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, Kenneth Branagh sets his sights on a new chapter in the Belgian detective's story with his take on the Hallowe'en Party in A Haunting in Venice.
The film finds Hercule Poirot (Branagh) in isolation until his writer friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) convinces him to attend a party hosted by Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly), whose daughter died under mysterious circumstances after being haunted by ghosts.
Rowena hopes to understand what really happened to her daughter by holding a séance with medium Mrs Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), and Ariadne wants Poirot to reveal the tricks that the medium uses since she appears, for all intents and purposes, to be the genuine article.
Unlike his first two outings as Hercule Poirot, the director chooses not to stick too closely to the source material in A Haunting in Venice in order to put his own mark on the classic murder mystery. Branagh transports the narrative from England to Venice and leaning heavily into the horror genre to give the story a supernatural twist.
This works for the most part, with Branagh adeptly using jump scares and sound design to make the film an unnerving watch for viewers, particularly as the dead begin haunting Poirot in a bid to get him to solve the case. For horror aficionados, though, this won't be much of a scare.
Branagh has once again assembled a stellar cast for the film, with Michelle Yeoh making a memorable appearance as Mrs Reynolds that sees her give a gloriously over-the-top performance which hits its peak when her character calls to the vengeful spirits of Rowena's home during the séance.
Other cast members like Fey, Reilly and Jamie Dornan, who plays a doctor with PTSD following his experiences in World War II, do their best with what they're given, but it feels like their characters have largely wasted potential. Fey's author has some funny quips but still feels underused, for example.
Despite the stunning new location and A-list cast one can't help but feel a certain emptiness to the movie.
It hits all the right points of a Poirot story, the shocking murder, the interrogation of suspects and the final showdown where the detective reveals the truth, but the film doesn't have quite the same magic as can be felt in Christie's work even with all that.
What other critics thought of A Haunting in Venice:
Digital Spy: This spooky, twisty mystery is the saga at its best (4-min read)
The Independent: Poirot meets the supernatural in Kenneth Branagh’s third middle-of-the-road chiller (3-min read)
Evening Standard: Kenneth Branagh’s latest Christie adaptation is an indulgent disposable treat (3-min read)
It trudges through its story at a reasonable pace but doesn't really give the narrative the time it truly deserves, which was similarly an issue in Branagh's previous Poirot films.
That being said, A Haunting in Venice feels like the director's best attempt at adapting one of Christie's novels despite these issues.
A Haunting in Venice premieres in cinemas on Friday, 15 September.
Watch the trailer for A Haunting in Venice: