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Haunting in Venice, A
Year : 2023
Country : United-States

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DokBrowne  [ 7.5 ]    [ add to preferred ]    [ email this review to a friend ]

Something of a gear shift from the previous 2 Agatha Christie Poirot mysteries Branagh made, foregoing their star-studded pizzazz and digitally enhanced backdrop splendor for an intentionally murkier, more modest "dark and stormy night" telling that Branagh fashions with classical style, making this kind of an ideal Halloween night selection (as it also takes place overnight on the holiday, and was released onto Hulu this same day).

The director's irrepressible theatricality flourishes better in these tighter quarters somehow, the Dutch and looming high angles, askew blocking, rhythmic editing and sometimes Shyamalan-esque jarring mannerisms adding eeriness to the Venetian building they're all trapped in. If you're going to follow the Agatha Christie scripture as obediently as this one does - it changes huge swaths of her original book, including crucial characters and motives, but sticks to the rigid formula whereby after the murder takes place, the rest of the movie is a looooooong series of interviews that Poirot and a cohort conduct on each guest before determining who the culprit is - then these techniques help smooth the way, plus you've got pleasingly elevated language at play (Poirot's in particular but almost all the dialogue is silky, really), sets that seem barren and dimly lit to the point of budgetary concern (like did Branagh finance this himself and that's why they couldn't afford more elaborate lighting?) yet again it all just intensifies the atmosphere even more and the European architecture makes it even richer (and don't get me started on the exteriors of the canals, the gondolas pushing through the foggy night waters with their glowing lamps and sinister masked gondoliers on loan from the "Eyes Wide Shut" orgy)...

The cast could stand to be more interesting, yes, but there are some highlights, like Tina Fey reinventing herself as a whodunit staple (doing strangely similar character work on "Only Murders in the Building"), Michelle Yeoh oozing mystique and Branagh's child star from "Belfast" Jude Hill stealing the show in a key role.

And I admit I did nod off a couple times during those half-dozen quiet, slow-paced interrogation scenes, but I bounced back! And appreciate the leg work they're doing to present complicated characters and in emotionally affecting short story form. The person who dun it may not be the most clever revelation but it all makes sense and Branagh threads a pretty thoughtful (if, yes, familiar) thematic conflict about ghosts that resolves itself satisfyingly.

At less than 2 hours and with no extended prologue about the tragic backstory circumstances that led to the origin of his goddamn mustache, this movie comes off like a reasonable step back from the egomania that this franchise's initial success had sparked in Branagh to indulge in with "Death on the Nile"'s excesses. But it's still reassuring to see some connections to the past in this latest depiction of Poirot; it definitely is still a sequel to the others, not just a retooling of the character, and a chance to see him continue to grow a little bit more, not just a standalone experience (as wonderful as the Benoit Blanc adventures have been so far, might be nice to see some development of Blanc as a person too as that series goes on, but maybe that's greedy of me).

Everyone's got their own rocky relationship with Branagh's Poirot films, I suppose, so I don't want to speak on everyone's behalf, but I agree with what appears to be a common sentiment that this third and mildly divergent one is a surprising success. I've enjoyed all 3 so far though, so really now I'm just waiting (in vain?) for the announcement of a 4th.

Corto   7.5  ]

Weighted Rating : 6.9
No. Ratings : 2
No. Reviews : 1

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