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A Haunting in Venice

A Haunting in Venice (2023) – Triumph in simplicity and beauty

A Haunting in Venice – I said it once, I’ll say it again, give me a movie that doesn’t try to be more than it is and I’ll sit for hours. A plot that is so worn down I could practically quote it, a beautiful cast, cinematography that could put the pearly gates to shame, and just enough jumpscares to keep me hidden behind a pillow.

A Haunting in Venice - Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot
Kenneth Branagh as super-sleuth Hercule Poirot

Credits and synopsis

The year is 1947. Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is trying his best to live out a retirement free of murder, death, and spectacle. However, being the world’s most famous detective comes with a price. As a favor to the author that made him into the spectacle, he reluctantly agrees to sit in on a seance to determine a credit of a famous medium (Michelle Yeoh) within a notoriously haunted house. However, things take a turn for the worse when the medium is murdered in pursuit of finding out who murdered the victims she was sent to get in contact with.

Emerging from retirement Poirot is thrown into the world of the supernatural which might force him to reconcile with a reality that goes against everything he believes to be true.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, screenplay by Micheal Green. This is the third installment of a standalone mystery/thriller film series. It began with Murder on the Orient Express, seconded by Murder on the Nile, and now A Haunting in Venice.

Despite Kenneth Branagh being the director he stars in all three movies as the main lead. Aside from this, the franchise is known for having some A-list faces appear. Micheal Yeoh, Jamie Dorian, and Tina Fey are only a few of the actors who gave beautiful performances in this piece.

A Haunting in Venice - A series of stunning backdrops
Kenneth Branagh produces another series of stunning backdrops

Let me just say

I’ll be honest, I love this franchise. In my personal opinion, it is the Hallmark movie of the mystery thriller genre. A tropey plot, overly dramatic performances, and a perfectly simple solution. This was a great addition to the Halloween season veering slightly away from its roots and dipping into the horror side.

Where this movie lacks in complication it makes up for in beauty. The cinematography was saturated in such a way as to make you feel like it was bordering animation. It heavily works with shadows and a somber lighting palette to conjure feelings of dread and mystique.

Of course, the setting helped a ton being filmed in a haunted palazzo in Venice rather than its original location of England. A raging storm matched with the canal became a character within itself throwing the characters into a suffocating isolation with no one but the ghosts and a murderer to keep them company.

It was haunting and decrepit and sad and stunning.

This has become a sort of standard for mystery/thrillers/sometimes horror over the last few years falling in the same categories as Knives Out and Ready (2019) Ready Or Not (2019).

A Haunting in Venice - The Church of St. Giorgio Maggiore
The Church of St. Giorgio Maggiore – Are you tired of me talking about the stunning imagery yet?

The actors are acting again

The acting in these movies felt nearly playful. The script delivery was spilling drama and felt like the people involved were having a genuinely good time.

Tangent: I don’t know if you’ve seen the fan theory about the movie Dungeons and Dragons where it is just an intense game of D&D that was filmed. That is how this movie felt to me. It was a group of friends playing clue in a haunted mansion and we were along for the session.

Downsides

Okay, okay now that I’ve raved about it there must be something bad about it, right? Not necessarily. The thing about this movie, and all the others for that matter is, and forgive me if I haven’t said this yet… It’s basic.

I knew who the killer was nearly ten minutes into the movie, but that wasn’t the reason I went to see the movie. A common idea is that a viewer’s deduction of a mystery is a tell-tell sign of a poorly written show, but truthfully, you’re there to experience the plot with the detective, not do his job.

Getting serious, this movie does have a fatal flaw. Its original author, Agatha Christie.

(my only other highly personal qualm is at the bottom.)

A Haunting in Venice - A young boy sits at the center of a mystery
A Haunting in Venice – A young boy sits at the center of a mystery

Oh Agatha

A lot of people, myself included, see a film adaptation of a written work and rush to the bookstore to pick up every work available. In this case, I will not be doing that. Due to Agatha Christie’s blatant racism, xenophobia and antisemitism made very prominent in her works, I can’t in good conscience recommend them.

Following that, It is understandable if you are of the belief that the works should not be separated from their original creators, however, the work put into the newer adaptations by Kenneth Branagh and Micheal Green is admirable if nothing else.

All this being stated let me add this: I am not your mother, consume what you please.

Moving on to something a bit more interesting, If you’ve read any of my other reviews you know that I am a huge history fanatic so, let’s learn for a second about a different side to Agatha. She was born in 1890 and died in 1976. She wrote sixty-six novels and fourteen short story collections.

Aside from her writing, she is most notorious for her disappearance in 1926 in a front-page scandal involving her first husband and another woman. She was found eleven days into the disappearance with a classic case of memory loss, but the stir of it created an ambiance akin to one of her own novels, cementing her works and personal life into a amalgamated ballad for history to speculate.

A Haunting in Venice - Michelle Yeooh plays the medium that kicks off the spooky events
Michelle Yeooh plays the medium that kicks off the spooky events

A Haunting in Venice – Concluding

I loved this movie and will definitely be eager to see future installments. Yes, it has a complicated history, and yes it is otherwise kind of basic, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything out today that doesn’t share a similar fate in some way.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for in-depth complicated plots, this likely isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for an experience A Haunting in Venice is definitely up your alley.

Highly personal qualm (Spoilers)

For those who don’t know, I am a writer… Like not just for reviews. Don’t look me up, you won’t find me, but!

The ending felt like such a wasted moment for me!!! Now I understand why they did it, but picture this (spoilers ahead):

Poirot tells the child it’s not his fault for blackmailing the mother which got his father killed. Two scenarios.

1: After the line, “The dead don’t stay dead here, I’ll see them again” then he looks at the palazzo with a heartfelt goodbye to his father. IMAGINE if they cut away to everyone that died in the building standing on the dock with Poirot eluding to the fact that he too overdosed on the honey and is now doomed to be a part of a mystery he helped solve ending his career and throwing him into eternal retirement.

2: Starting directly from him speaking to the child, then deciding to take the child under his wing to be his replacement when he’s old enough thus securing the franchise’s future. He did find a kinship with the kid throughout the movie and I was genuinely surprised this didn’t happen.

Anyhow, I enjoyed the ending. It was cute and if I didn’t enjoy it, that’s what fan-fiction is for.

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