A Haunting in Venice (2023)

September 15th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Kenneth Branagh | UK Fantasy thriller 100′

Venice, All Hallows Eve 1947, and the privations of the war are still haunting the lugubrious rain-soaked city in this morose horror-tinged thriller from Kenneth Branagh. Adapted from the Agatha Christie treasure trove: ‘Hallowe’en Party’, from 1969, this latest outing follows on from Death in the Nile. In a bid to attract a younger generation, rather than the usual ‘Archers’ demographic, the ghosts are all children. 

The po-faced Belgian sleuth (Branagh himself) has been dragged out of self-imposed retirement by an American crime writer friend Ariadne Oliver, a sparky Tina Fey who considerably lightens the mood). She wants him to come with her to a halloween seance at a penumbral palazzo haunted by dead children. The idea is to rumble a ‘fake’ physic (Michelle Yeoh) hired by the chatelaine Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly) to shed light on the mysterious drowning of her daughter Alicia (Rowan Robinson). True to form, Poirot has no truck with things spiritual until his scepticism is piqued when things turn nasty. Could evil forces really be at work in this sinister setting with its Tourneuresque shadow-play? Or is this merely a bid to disguise skulduggery.

The underused cast of suspects make their excuses: Rowena’s ex fiancé Maxime (Kyle Allen), the housekeeper Olga Seminoff (Camille Cottin); Dr Leslie Ferrier (Jamie Dornan) and his little son Leopold (a superb Jude Hill); a Hungarian couple (Ali Khan, Desdemona Holland). Even Piorot’s bodyguard (Richard Scammarcio) is questioned.

A Haunting is certainly a bit of fun to start with, and there are some witty one-liners largely from Tina Fey. DoP Haris Zambarloukos makes it all look spectacular, but no amount of jump scares, echoing voices, screeching parrots  – or even a projectile vomiting skeleton – can save the narrative torpor that eventually sets in as this latest outing sinks slowly into the lagoon. MT


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