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‘A Haunting In Venice’: Branagh’s Risk Pays Off in Series’ Best

Kenneth Branagh’s cinematic eye has never been stronger with this latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s mystery novel.
Kenneth Branagh as Detective “Hercule Poirot” in “A Haunting in Venice” (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios)


The latest entry in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptations of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels ditches the humor and robustness of its predecessors. Instead, it boasts a far more direct and understated tone resulting in an atmospheric thriller. This change occurs just in time as tree leaves begin to turn orange and red.

Branagh serves as both the franchise star and director. He decided to take a risk by completely changing the tone and presentation of Hercule Poirot’s next outing. The question is if it paid off both with critics and the box office.

Canals And Craftsmanship

The cast participates in a seance in “A Haunting in Venice” (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

Detective Poirot in this movie is jaded. He’s lost faith in humanity. He finds himself put to the test as he contends with supernatural goings-on at a seance in a sinking Venetian home — goings-on which his rational mind cannot explain.

Everything about Branagh’s performance is more subtle than in previous films, even his iconic mustache. Still, the British thespian remains a capable leading man for this franchise.

Tina Fey as the auspicious author Ariadne Oliver provides some brevity to the movie and serves as a nice foil to Poirot. It’s impressive, considering the actress is mainly known for her comedic work. Jamie Dornan provides some tension as the traumatized Dr. Leslie Ferrier. He has some explosive moments with the character’s arrogant rival, Maxime Gerard (Kyle Allen).

An unexpectedly good performance is Jude Hill as the precocious Leopold Ferrier. He’s first seen reading “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” a compendium of Edgar Allen Poe’s best works and a hint of the child’s cleverness.

Michelle Yeoh as a mysterious medium “Mrs. Reynolds” in “A Haunting in Venice” (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

High praise goes to Michelle Yeoh as Mrs. Reynolds, the enigmatic medium hired to conduct the seance. Yeoh is allowed to stretch her legs as an actress and go for a role that switches between quiet and brazen on a dime.

Here, Branagh’s cinematic eye has never been stronger. Classic Dutch Angles are used of course, but once the plot gets going the camera never stops being expressive. It zooms around the set. It watches the characters from the shadows or lingers uncomfortably close to their faces. There is plenty of striking horror imagery used to ratchet up the tension.

Spooky Season Is Upon Us

The plot is based on Christie’s “Hallowe’en Party” which was only a short story, not a novel. This however works in the movie’s favor because it is unusually short. It clocks in at only 103 minutes. With its pensive pacing, it does feel like the perfect runtime.

It earned a franchise-best 77% critical and audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, a 6.8 user score on IMDB and a respectable B CinemaScore. Other than these laurels, however, things are looking bleak.

The movie unfortunately has not brought in the big bucks out of the gate. It underperformed with a $14.3 million domestic and $22.7 million international opening weekend. Similar horror-fare “The Nun II,” held the top spot with $14.5 million domestic in its second weekend.

The cast of “A Haunting in Venice” (Courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

With other mystery thrillers thriving like the “Knives Out” franchise and “Only Murders in the Building,” it’s puzzling that this movie has not found its audience.

A broader discussion is to be had about the post-pandemic cinema-going habits of today’s audiences. Perhaps this film will find its footing down the line via premium video-on-demand or streaming services, just in time for fall to truly begin.


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About the Contributor
Andre Montoya, Arts Writer
Andre Montoya is a senior at the University of Utah double majoring in English and communications with an emphasis in journalism. He began writing for the Arts Desk at the Daily Utah Chronicle in Fall 2022. Previously, he has written for the West View Media and Voices of Utah, formerly run by now retired U professor Dr. Kim Mangun. He can often be found around campus glued to his laptop working on assignments or at the Student Life Center exercising. In his free time, he enjoys reading novels, photography, binge-watching shows and movies, or spending time with friends.

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