Film Review: A Haunting in Venice (2023)

Kenneth Branagh returns as Hercule Poirot but lesser-known tale A Haunting in Venice is probably best left lesser-known

“Scary stories make real life a little less scary”

Not to kick a man when he’s down but Kenneth Branagh’s continuation of his Poirot project with A Haunting in Venice really didn’t do it for me. After the better-known titles and vast all-star ensembles of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, the move to loosely adapt the 1969 Agatha Christie novel Hallowe’en Party could have had potential to reinvigorate the fairly pedestrian progress thus far but to no avail.

As the title might suggest, there’s a move to a spookier kind of storytelling here but as Branagh insists on directing himself, the tendency towards lugubrious dullness takes over once again. Even with trying to mix in horror-movie tropes, there’s nothing inventive here that justifies the endeavour, just an air of seen-it-all-before-but-better ennui and a desire to see this undoubtedly fine company do different work elsewhere.

This time there’s Tina Fey (a novelist friend of Poirot’s with secrets), Michelle Yeoh (a psychic with secrets), Jamie Dornan (a doctor with secrets), Camille Cottin (a housekeeper with…you get it by now), all gathered at Rowena Drake’s (Kelly Reilly) palazzo, which naturally is said to be haunted by the ghosts of orphans. Then there’s a murder (who’d’ve thunk it) and all those secrets to tumble out in a complex web of mixed motivations – it just never fully engages the attention.

Branagh doesn’t really make the most of his cast, few if any stand out from the sepuchral gloom with any real sense of character as the pacing saps what little energy there was. Less scared stiff than bored stiff tbqh.

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