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A Haunting In Venice | Review by: Luke Elisio
Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptations of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries are divisive to say the least. Both “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile” are opulent, star-studded and well-made movies and yet, neither has achieved the universal or critical acclaim that they’re capable of. Despite being a fan of opulent star-studded mysteries, I had never seen either movie before. Branagh’s latest Poirot adventure, “A Haunting in Venice,” which is based on Christie’s novel, “Hallowe’en Party” is my first foray into the series and now I can see why it’s so divisive. The movie is a fine enough mystery but it isn’t a particularly gripping one. All the elements for an intriguing story are there but not utilized to their full potential to create a mystery audiences can enjoy trying to solve on their own. Nor is it fully satisfying as either a mystery or a horror movie.
You can tell Branagh is unfamiliar with directing a horror movie because “A Haunting in Venice” is brimming with the most clichéd stylistic elements of the genre: Creepy masks, jump scares, flashes of lightning…this is more or less your average haunted house movie but not willing to fully indulge in the inherent creepiness of those movies. There’s definitely an air of spookiness to this movie, but I’m sorry Branagh, multiple closeups of gothic architecture do not make a horror movie. Nor does maddening camerawork and direction that is intended to make audiences as though they’re losing their minds. The tone of “A Haunting in Venice” is an odd middle ground, hovering between taking itself too seriously and also poking fun at its own premise. It’s more like a sad French movie or an episode of a show lampooning Christie’s work.
The highlight of this movie is the showcase of the cast’s theatrical acting ability, especially Branagh and Tina Fey. Fey brings much needed humour and levity to the movie and having her paired with the dry detective is fun to watch. She single handedly saves “A Haunting in Venice” from bordering on drab. The mystery culminates in an ending that is abrupt and slightly lacklustre, making for a movie-watching experience that is fine but not great. Fans of Branagh’s past movies will find more than enough enjoyment here but when it comes to how to entice new fans, the mystery remains.