Movie Review

Haunting in Venice

Kenneth Branagh’s final chance as Hercule Poirot?


Since 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh has drastically changed the air from Agatha Christie’s Books and not for the better. Adding the unwarranted scenes in Turkey for the culprit, this deviated away from the source material as well as the 1978 version of the film. The same pattern follows for the 2020 version of Death on the Nile as the story’s pacing is rather off, deviating from its source materials, such as the cobra didn’t appear until after the murder of Linnet Doyle.

A particular pattern has been spotted once too often in Branagh’s latest Poirot film.

This time, the mystery felt short and very muddled, along with an attempted mix with the supernatural/horror genre, which never turns out well.

There is a culprit within this film’s mystery and it’s Branagh. Despite an array of all-star actors, the movie’s still beyond saving. So, grab your magnifying glass and start diving deeper into this mystery. Also expect spoilers as we waltz into the palazzo.

Plot Spoilers

In 1947, in Venice, Hercule Poirot has retired from his detective work. He is suddenly invited to a séance on Halloween Night by crime-fiction writer, Ariadne Oliver. The séance involves the passing of the daughter of Opera singer, Rowena Drake. However, her suicide turns out to be a murder.

As the mystery thickens with the storm cutting the palazzo off from the rest of Venice and, the psychic found murdered and Poirot hallucinates, seeing a ghost, a much more sinister plot occurs on Halloween night as Poirot tries to use his logical sense to truly discover who is the true culprit behind these strings of ‘unfortunate’ events.

Positive and Negative Notes

Despite Mr. Michael Green’s Accolades as a screenwriter, I have more negative notes than positive ones concerning the Haunting in Venice.

We will start with the positive side, such as an all-star cast, including Michelle Yeoh, Kenneth Branagh, and Tina Fey. There are also a few jump scares in the film throughout the palazzo; however these scares are not enough to frighten me. Such as the brief Nightmare that Poirot has with a seagull attacking pigeons, as well as a sudden fall of the chandelier. As far as I’m concerned, Michael Green’s writing technique relies on sensationalism while sacrificing the integrity of the source material, even with full knowledge that the Poirot cinematic universe is failing.

Focusing on ‘Haunting in Venice,’ I have noticed a large amount of missteps found in this mystery film, especially when it comes to mixing the supernatural genre in this whodunit film. Even the film itself literally sells itself very short, as well as the emotion that goes with it.

The film also took too many shortcuts when it comes to the film. The culprit behind Alicia’s murder was rather obvious before Poirot made his final conclusion; Rowena Drake even hinted quickly about her suspicions, including her obsession with keeping her daughter close, removing the wildflowers in an attempt to plant poisonous rhododendron and attempting to control her with toxic honey.

The film also lacks the length it should have as a mystery film. The process is rushed, such as the sudden cutoff from the possession and not providing any further detail on whether the séance was interrupted or not. The film smash cuts to the next scene without rhyme or reason.

Genres Do Not Mix

For Haunting in Venice, I have noticed that the supernatural/horror genre in the film felt rather forced upon and contradicted the source material from Agatha Christie. I admit that I do feel a bit of a chill from the Ghost Children story, but it’s not enough for a scare. I do see a couple of creepy scenes, including the brief appearance of Alicia Drake’s ghost behind Poirot before he turns around. It’s most likely resulted from the poisoned honey causing hallucinations at the cost of his wits, making him see things that aren’t logically sound. Even when Reynolds’ trick typewriter has been uncovered, or when a possession occurred on the medium without a moment’s notice. As well as the last-minute appearance of the ghost appearing before Rowena, taking revenge against her. This truly baffled me, and it was unclear whether Poirot’s hallucinating due to the effects of the toxic honey.

I honestly cannot connect the dots whether the writer and the director want to make a whodunit film, or a supernatural thriller. Regardless, Haunting in Venice goes to show that certain film genres, along with their themes and tones, do not mix with each other. Just as much as Fire and water, or rather water and oil, will never mix. I would also recommend picking one genre and focusing on that a little more, such as the whodunit film starring Hercule Poirot, minus modern sensationalism.

Final Thoughts

With the rushed production contributed by the recent Writer’s Guild Strike along with the muddled tones mixed from both genres, Both Michael Green and Kenneth Branagh have proven that their collaborative experiments bore more failures than successes, with Haunting in Venice being the most recent score for the long line of downs. My word of advice when it comes to adapting from the source, such as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot books, is to stay true to the source material instead of making an absolute spectacle without proofreading, reaction from the test audience, as well as a thought of consequence from such an action.

As a result of witnessing this odd yet failed experiment by Green and Branagh, I am giving this film 4.3 out of 10 stars as this film will not qualify as a Halloween Flick due to the fact that this film’s supernatural element didn’t present enough fright for a Halloween Scary movie marathon. I would also hope that the film industry will improve after the Writer’s Guild strike.

Editor’s Note: According to IMDB, this screenplay is based on the Agatha Christie 1969 novel entitled “Hallowe’en Party.”


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  • Johnwils

    I’ve read some Agatha Christie books and enjoyed them. I’m not an expert though. I have also seen Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. I have not compared the books and movies to each other, so I can’t give an analysis. And I’m glad I don’t have to do the work it would take to do such an analysis as has been done herein this article. But I will say, I really have enjoyed all three of those movies. On the entertainment scale, I’d give them at least an 8 or maybe 9 out of 10.

    Saturday, September 23 Report this

  • bobkat

    Kenneth Branagh, an otherwise fine actor, doesn't hold a candle to David Suchet when playing Poirot.

    Saturday, September 23 Report this