A Haunting in Venice Review | A Passable Atmospheric Whodunit With a Supernatural Layer

Kenneth Branagh’s new movie, his third adaptation of an Agatha Christie work, A Haunting in Venice, based on Christie’s book Hallowe’en Party, has a very different visual language from Branagh’s other two movies in the series. The supernatural element and the central character’s psychological space make the film less compelling visually. And if that tail-end revealing was not there in the movie, I would have called it a glorified Scooby doo story. In totality, this blend of supernatural with detective instincts is a passable, slow-paced thriller.

An emotionally detached Hercule Poirot is now living in Italy and is not interested in taking up any further cases. One day, his friend and crime novelist Ariadne Oliver pays him a visit, asking him to accompany her in her attempt to expose this lady named Joyce Reynolds, who does some sort of witchcraft, as a fraud. But when they reached the place where this séance happened, they learned about a young girl who committed suicide. Things take an interesting turn when Reynolds is found dead in a suspicious circumstance. How the detective in Poirot rises to the occasion and solves the mystery around the multiple deaths is what we see in A Haunting in Venice.

As I said, the visual grammar of the movie has a very stark contrast from the other two films. The frame has hardly any colors, and the aspect ratio is pretty compact. Screenwriter Michael Green opts for a very slow approach in establishing the palazzo, maybe because of the spooky angle to the story. The narrative’s slowness and the dark setting can make you doze off while watching the film. But a major salvaging happens in the film’s last act, where the typical confrontation occurs. And the way Poirot links everything to science, very much like how Velma does at the end of every Scooby doo episode, it sort of gets interesting.

Kenneth Branagh reprises his role as Hercule Poirot. This time, the character’s emotional state and the horror elements in the story make him deliver a slightly restrained performance. My favorite, Tina Fey, as the cheeky and enthusiastic Ariadne Oliver, was fun to watch, even though some of the elements around that character were predictable. Among the other cast members, Kelly Reilly as Rowena Drake and Michelle Yeoh as Joyce Reynolds were perfect. Belfast fame Jude Hill delivered an impressive performance as the young Leopold.

The decision to opt for a paled-out color scheme and imax-like aspect ratio is kind of understandable, as the thriller aspect of this chapter is slightly secondary. But the cinematography style and the rhythm of the cuts were kind of inconsistent. You couldn’t really deduce the reason for a Dutch angle in the witty banter between Poirot and Oliver. The fast cuts in that interrogation scene of Reynolds’ assistants also didn’t create the desired impact. The writing is slightly underwhelming in the initial parts as it isn’t really managing to establish the setting and the characters despite following a slow tempo.

It is ultimately a whodunit, with a big reveal at the end. But more than shock, the movie approaches that reveal with subtlety and empathy. Hence, this thriller has a different texture from the usual ones and even from the films in the same franchise. Branagh and Green end the movie with a very enthusiastic and optimistic Poirot, hinting at the possibility of another film with a jovial and exciting beat.

Final Thoughts

In totality, this blend of supernatural with detective instincts is a passable, slow-paced thriller.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.