A Haunting in Venice, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, draws inspiration from the renowned writer Agatha Christie’s classic novel Hallowe’en Party, setting the book up for the big screen—albeit in a very loose manner.
Set in post-World War II Venice, A Haunting in Venice unfolds on All Hallows’ Eve. This thriller marks the return of the renowned detective Hercule Poirot. Now retired and living in self-imposed exile in the glamorous city, Poirot finds himself reluctantly drawn into a séance held at a decaying and haunted palazzo.
The evening suddenly takes a chilling turn when one of the guests is brutally murdered, plunging Poirot into a sinister realm of darkness, where secrets lurk in every corner. Forced to confront shadows from the past and navigate treacherous waters of intrigue, the detective must rely on his brilliant deductive skills to unravel the truth.
Amidst the haunting ambiance of Venice, Poirot weaves his way through a web of deception, unmasking the secrets of the suspects. As the suspense escalates, the master sleuth finds himself entangled in a cat-and-mouse game with a cunning and ruthless killer.
A Haunting in Venice delivers a rather appealing storyline, combining elements of historical mystery, psychological suspense, and the allure of the Venetian backdrop to keep the audience on edge and engaged in this tale of murder that sees Poirot mired in a web of unexplained deaths within a supposedly possessed house. Poirot’s unwavering disbelief in the paranormal drives him to uncover a rational truth, exposing the secrets hidden beneath the surface and exploring the darker side of human nature amidst incomprehensible events. This exploration blurs the lines between the tangible and the supernatural that even Poirot seems to question despite unmasking the culprit. Were the visions and voices hallucinations from the poisonous, toxic honey he unknowingly ingested or was something truly ominous transpiring?
The tension and eerie atmosphere throughout the film work to merge elements of mystery and mild horror, which I found to be compelling. Despite being criticized by some for blending the two genres, this fusion sets A Haunting in Venice apart from other detectives, adding an interesting layer to the story. Although it may not reach the heights of sublimity, the movie remains thrilling throughout.
While the suspense and unexpected happenings—to a certain degree—throughout the movie kept me intrigued, I couldn’t help but notice the absence of robust character motives regarding the deaths that occurred. Sure, the movie had some character impulses, but not enough to keep you truly questioning yourself. This left me somewhat craving a deeper exploration of the characters and their motivations, which would have added an extra layer of complexity to the narrative. On top of that, although the plot was accompanied by some unexpected twists, it was somewhat predictable due to the subtle plot clues sprinkled throughout the film.
Although the trailers for A Haunting in Venice might have presented the film as more spine-chilling and captivating than it actually is, it’s important to approach the movie with the right perspective. It may not fully meet the heightened expectations set by its trailers, but it still delivers an enjoyable and interesting narrative that caters to those who enjoy the suspense of a detective/crime film intertwined with slightly chilling and otherworldly happenings.
On a positive note, the setting of Venice adds a distinct charm to the film. While the majority of the movie takes place in a residence, leaving much of Venice unexplored, the city still helps to create a visually attractive backdrop that assists with the cinematography, successfully capturing the eerie ambiance and overall haunting atmosphere of the film.
A Haunting in Venice does not reach the level of greatness I was hoping for, nonetheless, it is indeed still an entertaining movie that envelops viewers in a tangible aura of enigma and intrigue. The movie is not at all scary, but it definitely offers some chilling moments that brilliantly set the tone for the Halloween season. Whether you are a fan of detective stories or supernatural elements, this film offers a likable plot and novel take on the mystery/crime genre that you may appreciate.
A Haunting in Venice is in theaters September 15, 2023.