Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot Will Go ‘A Haunting in Venice’

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Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – While Kenneth Branagh still isn’t a favorite Hercule Poirot, I was as surprised as anyone to find that this third go around as the Belgian detective was my favorite. As the title implies, there are jump scares a-plenty as Poirot tries to get his little gray cells around the strange goings-on in a spooky house, and solve the mystery. 

In “A Haunting In Venice,” Poirot is in retirement in 1947, devoting himself to fine pastries in a palazzo in Venice.This all changes when a mystery writer who’s also an old acquaintance (Tina Fey) drags him out to attend a seance at the home of an Opera Singer (Kelly Reilly of “Yellowstone”) who is racked by grief after her daughter died under mysterious circumstances some years earlier.

A Haunting in Venice
Photo credit: 20th Century Pictures/Walt Disney Studios

Based on a later Agatha Christie novel called “Hallowe’en Party,” the film tilts a little more towards supernatural horror than suspense. But It works best as a classic locked door mystery with Poirot and a cast of characters locked in a spacious former orphanage supposedly haunted by spirits of ghoulish dead children … as he tries to find whodunit.

In addition to Fey and Reilly, Michelle Yeoh portrays a psychic who claims she can talk to the dead, Jamie Dornan is a shell shocked former WW2 army physician, Jude Hill is the doctor’s son, and Camille Cottin has a role as a skittish overly superstitious housekeeper round out the cast.

The most surprising element of this was for me the addition of Tina Fey. She’s a hoot as a crackerjack mystery novelist hoping for a good case that will give her a hit after a string of flops. Fey is always a welcome addition, and the sight of her cracking wise with 1940’s slang while working with Branagh to sort out clues works better than I ever thought. The two have a lively ying-yang chemistry that helps propel the movie through some early rough patches until it really gets going. Michelle Yeoh unfortunately isn’t given much to do, while Ms. Reilly is trying so hard to out-act everyone else with her “Capital A” Acting.

They Will Go ‘A Haunting in Venice’
Photo credit: 20th Century Pictures/Walt Disney Studios

Branagh the director continues to put his camera in odd angles in an effort to put the audience off kilter. Regarding the jump scares, I for one found it all to be a bit much after a while, with Sir Kenneth going to the mysterious-figure-standing-right-behind-you trick once too often.

But when the movie moves into real mystery mode it becomes much more enjoyable. Agatha Christie knows how to write a good yarn, and finally after three tries Kenneth Branagh has finally figured out how to film one.

”A Haunting in Venice” is in theaters September 15th. Featuring Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, Michelle Yeoh, Kelly Reilly, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill, Camille Cottin and Kyle Allen. Screenplay adapted by Michael Green. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Rated “PG-13” contributor Spike Walters


© 2023 Spike Walters,

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