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The School Newspaper of Franklin High School

Pantherbook

The School Newspaper of Franklin High School

Pantherbook

“A Haunting in Venice” Review: Spooky, Satisfying, and Spoiler-Free

The latest Poirot flick to hit theaters packs a punch.
On+Halloween%2C+a+s%C3%A9ance+lead+by+the+elusive+Joyce+Reynolds+%28Michelle+Yeoh%29+goes+horribly+wrong.+Accessed+as+part+of+the+A+Haunting+in+Venice+UK+Press+Kit.
Disney
On Halloween, a séance lead by the elusive Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) goes horribly wrong. Accessed as part of the “A Haunting in Venice” UK Press Kit.

Looking for a bone-chilling mystery to watch in theaters this fall? A Haunting in Venice might fit the bill! Directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot for the third time, this Agatha Christie adaptation is not to be missed thanks to its wild twists, stellar cast, and Venetian visuals.

Instead of drawing inspiration from a more popular Poirot story like Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile, A Haunting in Venice uses the obscure 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party as its foundation. Set in 1947, the film follows a newly retired Poirot as he reluctantly joins his close friend, mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver (played by SNL icon Tina Fey), in attending a séance on All Hallow’s Eve. This time around, though, Poirot’s not looking to solve a murder; Ariadne wants to him to bust Joyce Reynolds, the mysterious woman conducting the séance, for being a total fraud.

Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) catches up with Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), a close friend of his. Accessed as part of the “A Haunting in Venice” UK Press Kit. (Disney)

Upon arriving at opera singer Rowena Drake’s palazzo for the event, Poirot and Oliver learn about how her daughter, Alicia, tragically fell to her death after her fiance called off their engagement. But that’s not all that haunts the Drake residence, for legend says the ghosts of children who died centuries ago haunt the walls, too. Plus, add in the fact that it’s Halloween, a storm is brewing, and Alicia’s fiancé unexpectedly shows up. Nothing can possibly go wrong, right?

Of course not, for someone winds up dead. The horror! Now, it’s up to Poirot to put his detective cap back on and not only find out what exactly went wrong, but who killed Alicia as well.

The movie does start off on the slow side with a lengthy introduction to Poirot’s new life in the iconic Italian city, but once the first victim of the night falls (heavy emphasis on “first”), it’s impossible to look away. Clocking in at under two hours long, the plot moves fast, just like the storm currents sending Venice’s gondolas into a frenzy.

One main highlight of A Haunting of Venice has to be its strong ensemble cast; there are no weak links. Particular standout performances include 2023 Academy Award winner Michelle Yeoh as Joyce Reynolds, Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan as the Drake family doctor, and Jude Hill (the little boy in Belfast, also directed by Branagh) as his son. A particular shoutout should go to the latter since Hill, at just 13 years old portrays a pretentious child with both heart and humor

A Haunting in Venice also benefits from leaning into the horror genre not seen in the prior Poirot adaptations. Supernatural visions contribute to the storyline not just as a gimmick, but rather as an important step towards solving the murders in the palazzo, both past and present. Be prepared for a minor jumpscare!

Venetian gondolas stay out on the water, even late at night. Accessed as part of the “A Haunting in Venice” UK Press Kit. (Disney)

Additionally, the upgrade in style sets Venice miles above 2022’s Death on the Nile; the costuming, set design, and musical score have time to shine. Party guests don authentic Venetian masks, classical architecture dazzles each and every minute, and the soundtrack includes old-timer tunes that transport viewers back to a Post World War II world. Plus, Poirot still keeps himself well groomed by sporting his iconic mustache. Phew!

A few missteps were taken, partially with the film editing. Some chase sequences felt a tad choppy, despite the intent to convey a sense of panic. Also, the shorter runtime limits character development, which is somewhat a shame. Complex characters like Nicolas and Desdemona Holland, two siblings working for Joyce with shady pasts, are sidelined at times in order to progress Poirot’s work on the case. Then again, if the movie was to be 30 minutes longer, it would possibly feel drawn-out like Death on the Nile

While A Haunting in Venice doesn’t exactly reach the heights Rian Johnson does with his Knives Out films starring Daniel Craig, it doesn’t have to. Branagh knows exactly what he’s doing with Poirot: introducing a new generation to classic literature on the big screen (and having fun while doing it). The film also improves upon its predecessor in virtually every aspect. Sure, there’s not “enough champagne to fill the Nile”, but thank goodness there aren’t any CGI pyramids and no Armie Hammer in sight. Ultimately, A Haunting in Venice serves as the perfect way for moviegoers to ease back into the spookiest season, so grab some popcorn and make sure the lights aren’t entirely off.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

About the Contributor
Grace Tucceri, Editor and Writer
Grace is finally a senior at FHS and cannot believe it's her fourth (and final) year at Pantherbook! This year, she runs Varsity Cross Country, serves as Student Government Treasurer, and executive produces the weekly Panther TV newscast. She also contributed a movie review to Headliners in Education, a national student news site, and partook in the New England High School Journalism Collaborative over the summer. Grace plans on attending college for broadcast journalism since her main goal in life is to report live on TV for a major network.