Movie Reviews

Tv/streaming, collections, great movies, chaz's journal, contributors, a haunting in venice.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Now streaming on:

"A Haunting in Venice" is the best of Kenneth Branagh's Hercule Poirot movies. It's also one of Branagh's best, period, thanks to the way Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green dismantle and reinvent the source material (Agatha Christie's Hallowe'en Party )  to create a relentlessly clever, visually dense "old" movie that uses the latest technology. 

Set mainly in a palazzo that seems as immense as Xanadu or Castle Elsinore (it's a blend of actual Venice locations, London soundstages, and visual effects), the movie is threaded with intimations of supernatural activity, most of the action occurs during a tremendous thunderstorm, and the violence pushes the PG-13 rating to its breaking point. It's fun with a dark streak: imagine a ghastly gothic cousin of " Clue ," or of something like Branagh's own " Dead Again ," which revolved around past lives. At the same time, amid the expected twists and gruesome murders, "A Haunting in Venice" is an empathetic portrayal of the death-haunted mentality of people from Branagh's parents' generation who came through World War II with psychic scars, wondering what had been won.  

The original Christie novel was published in 1969 and set in then-present-day Woodleigh Common, England. The adaptation transplants the story to Venice, sets it over 20 years earlier, gives it an international cast of characters thick with British expats, and retains just a few elements, including the violent death of a young girl in the recent past and the insinuating presence of an Agatha Christie-like crime novelist named Ariadne Oliver ( Tina Fey ), who takes credit for creating Poirot's reputation by making him a character in her writing. Aridane tracks down Poirot in a Venice apartment, where he's retired from detective work and seemingly in existential crisis (though one he'd never discuss without being asked). He seems resolved to a life of aloneness, which is not the same as loneliness. He tells Ariadne he doesn't have friends and doesn't need any. 

Ariadne's sales have slumped, so she draws Poirot back into sleuthing by pushing him to attend a Halloween Night seance at the aforementioned home, hoping to produce material that will give her another hit. The medium is a celebrity in her own right: Joyce Reynolds ( Michelle Yeoh ), a character named after the untrustworthy little girl in the original Christie story who claims to have witnessed a murder. Reynolds plans to communicate with a murder victim, Alicia Drake ( Rowan Robinson ), the teenage daughter of the palazzo's owner, former opera singer Rowena Drake ( Kelly Reilly ), and hopefully learn who did the deed.

There are, of course, many others gathered in the palazzo. All become suspects in Alicia's murder as well as the subsequent cover-up killings that ensue in these kinds of stories. Poirot locks himself and the rest of the ensemble in the palazzo and announces that no one can leave until he's figured things out. The gallery of possibles includes a wartime surgeon named Leslie Ferrier ( Jamie Dornan ) who suffers from severe PTSD; Ferrier's precocious son Leopold ( Jude Hill , the young lead in Branagh's " Belfast "), who is 12 going on 40 and asks unnerving questions; Rowena’s housekeeper Olga Seminoff ( Camille Cottin ); Maxime Gerard ( Kyle Allen ), Alicia’s former boyfriend; and Mrs. Reynolds’ assistants Desdemona and Nicholas Holland ( Emma Laird and Ali Khan ), war refugees who are half-siblings.

It would be unsporting to say much about the rest of the plot. Reading the book won't give anything important away because—even more so than in Branagh's previous Poirot films—the kinship between source and adaptation is a bit like the later James Bond films, which might take a title, some character names and locations, and one or two ideas, and invent everything else. Green, who also wrote the recent " Death on the Nile " as well as " Blade Runner 2049 " and much of the series "American Gods," is a reliably excellent screenwriter of fresh stories inspired by canonical material. His work keeps one eye on commerce and the other on art. He regularly reminds nostalgia-motivated viewers in the "intellectual property" era of why they like something. At the same time, he introduces provocative new elements and attempts a different tone or focus than audiences probably expected. (The introduction to the movie tie-in paperback of Christie's novel has an introduction by Green that starts with him confessing to a murder of "the book you are holding.")

Accordingly, this Poirot mystery aligns itself with popular culture made in Allied countries after World War II. Classic post-war English-language films like " The Best Years of Our Lives ," " The Third Man ," "The Fallen Idol," and mid-career Welles films like " Touch of Evil " and "The Trial" (to name just a few classics that Branagh seems keenly aware of) were not just engrossing, beautifully crafted entertainments, but illustrations of a pervasive collective feeling of moral exhaustion and soiled idealism—the result of living through a six-year period that showcased previously unimaginable horrors, including Stalingrad, Normandy, the mechanized extermination of the Holocaust, and the use of atomic bombs against civilians. And so the embittered Poirot is a seeming atheist who practically sneers at speaking to the dead. Green and Branagh even give him a monologue about his disillusionment that evokes comments made about Christie near the end of her life, and in the novel, about what she perceived as increasingly cruel tendencies in humanity as a whole, reflected in the sorts of crimes that were being committed.  

Aside from a few period-specific details and references, the source seems to exist outside of the time in which it was written. Branagh and Green's movie goes in the opposite direction. It's very much of  the late 1940s. The children in the film are orphans of war and post-war occupation (soldiers fathered some of them, then went back home without taking responsibility for their actions). There's talk of "battle fatigue," which is what PTSD was called during World War II; in the previous world war, they called it "shell shock." The plot hinges on the economic desperation of native citizens, previously moneyed expatriates who are too emotionally and often financially shattered to recapture the way of life they had before the war, and the mostly Eastern European refugees who didn't have much to start with and do the country's grunt work. The overriding sense is that some of these characters would literally kill to get back to being what they were.

Branagh was compared to Orson Welles early in his career for obvious reasons. He was a wunderkind talent who became internationally famous in his twenties and often starred in projects he originated and oversaw. He had one foot in theater and the other in film. He loved the classics (Shakespeare especially) and popular film genres (including musicals and horror). He had an impresario's sense of showmanship and the ego to go with it. He's never been more brazenly Wellesian than he is here. This film has a "big" feeling, as Welles' films always did, even when they were made for pocket change. But it's not full of itself, wasteful or pokey; like a Welles film, it gets in and out of every scene as fast as possible, and clocks in at 107 minutes, including credits. 

Film history aficionados may appreciate the many visual acknowledgments of the master's filmography, including ominous views of Venice that reference Welles' "Othello" and a screeching cockatoo straight out of " Citizen Kane ." At times, it feels as if Branagh conducted a seance and channeled Welles' spirit, as well as that of other directors who worked in a black-and-white, expressionistic, Gothic-flavored, very Wellesian style (including "The Third Man" director Carol Reed and "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Seven Days in May" director John Frankenheimer ). Branagh and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos have also mentioned Richard Brooks's 1967 adaptation of " In Cold Blood " and Masaki Kobayashi's "Kwaidan" as influences. The movie deploys fish-eye lenses, dutch tilts, hilariously ominous close-ups of significant objects (including a creepy cuckoo clock), extreme low- and high-angles, and deep-focus compositions that arrange the actors from foreground to deep background, with window and door frames, sections of furniture, and sometimes actors' bodies dicing up the shot to create additional frames-within-the-frame. 

Like post-millennial Michael Mann and Steven Soderbergh movies, "A Haunting in Venice" was shot digitally (albeit in IMAX resolution) and lets the medium be what it naturally is. The low-light interior scenes make no attempt to simulate film stock, depriving viewers of that "comfort food" feeling that comes from seeing a movie set in the past that uses actual film or tries for a "film look." The result is unbalancing, in a fascinating way. The images have a mesmerizing hyper-clarity and a shimmering, otherworldly aspect. In tight close-ups of actors, their eyes seem to have been lit from within.  

Branagh and editor Lucy Donaldson time the cuts so that the more ostentatious images (such as a rat crawling out of a stone gargoyle's mouth, and Poirot and Ariadne seen through the metal screen of a fireplace, flames in the foreground) are on-screen just long enough for the viewer to register what they see, and laugh at how far the movie is willing to go for the effect. Movies are rarely directed in this style anymore, in any format, and it's a shame, because when they are, the too-muchness can be intoxicating.

Available in theaters on September 15th. 

Matt Zoller Seitz

Matt Zoller Seitz

Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large of, TV critic for New York Magazine and, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism.

Now playing

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Girls State

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

You Can't Run Forever

Brian tallerico.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Art College 1994

Simon abrams.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Evil Does Not Exist

Glenn kenny.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

We Grown Now

Peyton robinson.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Film Credits

A Haunting in Venice movie poster

A Haunting in Venice (2023)

Rated PG-13 for some strong violence, disturbing images and thematic elements.

104 minutes

Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot

Kyle Allen as Maxime Gerard

Camille Cottin as Olga Seminoff

Jamie Dornan as Dr Leslie Ferrier

Tina Fey as Ariadne Oliver

Jude Hill as Leopold Ferrier

Ali Khan as Nicholas Holland

Emma Laird as Desdemona Holland

Kelly Reilly as Rowena Drake

Michelle Yeoh as Joyce Reynolds

Dylan Corbett-Bader as Baker

Amir El-Masry as Alessandro Longo

Fernando Piloni as Vincenzo Di Stefano

  • Kenneth Branagh

Writer (based upon the novel "Hallowe'en Party" by)

  • Agatha Christie
  • Michael Green


  • Haris Zambarloukos
  • Lucy Donaldson
  • Hildur Guðnadóttir

Latest blog posts

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Book Excerpt: Hollywood Pride by Alonso Duralde

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Cannes 2024: Megalopolis, Bird, The Damned, Meeting with Pol Pot

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Prime Video's Outer Range Opens Up in a Hole New Way in Season 2

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

The Ebert Fellows Go to Ebertfest 2024

  • Skip to main content
  • Keyboard shortcuts for audio player

Fresh Air

Movie Reviews

  • Apple Podcasts
  • Google Podcasts
  • Amazon Music

Your support helps make our show possible and unlocks access to our sponsor-free feed.

The big twist in 'A Haunting in Venice'? It's actually a great film

Justin Chang

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Tina Fey and Michelle Yeoh join Kenneth Branagh in A Haunting in Venice. Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection hide caption

Tina Fey and Michelle Yeoh join Kenneth Branagh in A Haunting in Venice.

You can always count on Agatha Christie for a surprise, and the big twist in A Haunting in Venice is that it's actually a pretty terrific movie.

I say this as a die-hard Christie fan who didn't much care for Kenneth Branagh 's earlier adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. Charming as he was in the role of Hercule Poirot, the movies themselves felt like lavish but superfluous retreads of two of the author's best-known classics.

One of the lessons of A Haunting in Venice is that sometimes, it's a good idea to go with weaker source material. Christie's 1969 novel Hallowe'en Party is one of her thinner whodunits, and Branagh and his screenwriter, Michael Green, have smartly overhauled the story, which is now set in 1947 Venice. They've also gleefully embraced the Halloween theme, taking the cozy conventions of the detective story and pushing them in the direction of a full-blown haunted-house thriller.

'Murder On The Orient Express' And Cozy Murder Mysteries

Pop Culture Happy Hour

'murder on the orient express' and cozy murder mysteries.

OK, so the result isn't exactly Don't Look Now , the most richly atmospheric horror movie ever shot in Venice. But Branagh and his collaborators, especially the cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos and the production designer John Paul Kelly, have clearly fallen under the spell of one of the world's most beautiful and cinematically striking cities. While there are the expectedly scenic shots of gondolas and canals at sunset, most of the action takes place after dark at a magnificent palazzo owned by a famed opera singer, played by Kelly Reilly.

She's hosting a lavish Halloween party, where Poirot is one of the guests, tagging along with his longtime American friend, Ariadne Oliver, a popular mystery novelist played with snappy wit by Tina Fey . Also in attendance are Jamie Dornan as a troubled doctor and an entrancing Michelle Yeoh as a medium, known as "the unholy Mrs. Reynolds," who says she can speak to the dead.

Case Closed: Agatha Christie's Detective Poirot Solves His Last TV Mystery

Case Closed: Agatha Christie's Detective Poirot Solves His Last TV Mystery

Mrs. Reynolds performs a séance, hoping to contact the spirit of the opera singer's daughter, who died under mysterious circumstances at the palazzo a year earlier. Soon another death will take place: One of the party guests turns up murdered, and while Poirot is officially retired, he decides to take on the case. He even asks his mystery-writer friend, Miss Oliver, to help him interview suspects, though not before first questioning her about her whereabouts at the time of the killing.

As Poirot, Branagh is clearly having so much fun wearing that enormous mustache and speaking in that droll French accent that it's been hard not to enjoy his company, even when the movies have been lackluster. For once, though, the case he's investigating is just as pleasurable to get lost in.

2 Books Investigate The Mysteries Of Agatha Christie And The Golden State Killer

Book Reviews

2 books investigate the mysteries of agatha christie and the golden state killer.

It's an unusually spooky story: The palazzo, we find out early on, is rumored to be haunted by the vengeful ghosts of children who died there years ago during an outbreak of the plague. Branagh piles on the freaky visuals and jolting sound effects, to the point where even a supreme skeptic like Poirot begins to question what's going on. These horror elements may be unabashedly creaky and derivative, but they work because the movie embraces them to the hilt.

A Haunting in Venice sometimes feels closer to the work of Christie's undersung contemporary John Dickson Carr, whose brilliant detective stories often flirted with the possibility of the supernatural. That said, the actual solution to the mystery, while clever enough, isn't especially ingenious or complicated.

Here are the movies we can't wait to watch this fall

Here are the movies we can't wait to watch this fall

What gives the story its deeper resonance is its potent sense of time and place. It's just two years after the end of World War II, and many of the suspects have witnessed unspeakable horrors. The medium, Mrs. Reynolds, was a nurse during the war, which may account for why she feels such an affinity for the dead. Everyone, from the grieving opera singer to the doctor traumatized by his memories, seems to be mourning some kind of loss.

In Branagh's retelling, Poirot is himself a World War I veteran. One of the reasons he's such a staunch atheist is that he's seen too much cruelty and suffering to believe that God exists. He doesn't exactly change his mind by the end of A Haunting in Venice . But it's a testament to this movie's poignancy that Poirot emerges from his retirement with a renewed belief that he can still do some good in the world. He's eagerly looking forward to his next case, and so, to my delight, am I.

Log in or sign up for Rotten Tomatoes

Trouble logging in?

By continuing, you agree to the Privacy Policy and the Terms and Policies , and to receive email from the Fandango Media Brands .

By creating an account, you agree to the Privacy Policy and the Terms and Policies , and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes and to receive email from the Fandango Media Brands .

By creating an account, you agree to the Privacy Policy and the Terms and Policies , and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes.

Email not verified

Let's keep in touch.

Rotten Tomatoes Newsletter

Sign up for the Rotten Tomatoes newsletter to get weekly updates on:

  • Upcoming Movies and TV shows
  • Trivia & Rotten Tomatoes Podcast
  • Media News + More

By clicking "Sign Me Up," you are agreeing to receive occasional emails and communications from Fandango Media (Fandango, Vudu, and Rotten Tomatoes) and consenting to Fandango's Privacy Policy and Terms and Policies . Please allow 10 business days for your account to reflect your preferences.

OK, got it!

Movies / TV

No results found.

  • What's the Tomatometer®?
  • Login/signup

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Movies in theaters

  • Opening this week
  • Top box office
  • Coming soon to theaters
  • Certified fresh movies

Movies at home

  • Fandango at Home
  • Netflix streaming
  • Prime Video
  • Most popular streaming movies
  • What to Watch New

Certified fresh picks

  • Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Link to Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
  • The Fall Guy Link to The Fall Guy
  • The Last Stop in Yuma County Link to The Last Stop in Yuma County

New TV Tonight

  • Interview With the Vampire: Season 2
  • Bridgerton: Season 3
  • Outer Range: Season 2
  • Spacey Unmasked: Season 1
  • After the Flood: Season 1
  • The Big Cigar: Season 1
  • The Killing Kind: Season 1
  • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: Season 11.1
  • Harry Wild: Season 3
  • RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars: Season 9

Most Popular TV on RT

  • Dark Matter: Season 1
  • Bodkin: Season 1
  • X-Men '97: Season 1
  • Fallout: Season 1
  • Baby Reindeer: Season 1
  • Doctor Who: Season 1
  • Hacks: Season 3
  • Best TV Shows
  • Most Popular TV
  • TV & Streaming News

Certified fresh pick

  • Bridgerton: Season 3 Link to Bridgerton: Season 3
  • All-Time Lists
  • Binge Guide
  • Comics on TV
  • Five Favorite Films
  • Video Interviews
  • Weekend Box Office
  • Weekly Ketchup
  • What to Watch

Cannes Film Festival 2024: Movie Scorecard

The Best Movies of 1999

Asian-American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage

What to Watch: In Theaters and On Streaming

What’s Next For Marvel’s Merry Mutants In X-Men ’97 ?

Kinds of Kindness First Reviews: Unpredictable, Unapologetic, and Definitely Not for Everyone

  • Trending on RT
  • Furiosa First Reviews
  • Most Anticipated 2025 Movies
  • Cannes Film Festival Preview
  • TV Premiere Dates

A Haunting in Venice Reviews

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

It's just as well Branagh changed the title, because — location switch aside — there's almost nothing here that recalls the original story aside from Poirot, some of the other characters' names, and the presence of an apple bobbing tub.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5 | Jan 25, 2024

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

I love all three of Branagh's Poirot films for this thread of a broken man exploited and celebrated but desperate for a human connection to ground him in the world of the living...

Full Review | Jan 4, 2024

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Enjoyably melodramatic and nicely unnerving, though the tendency to shoot from above and at odd angles becomes headache-inducing, especially when one is trying to work out whodunnit (or indeed woohoodunnit). Camille Cottin and Emma Laird are stand-outs.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5 | Jan 1, 2024

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

A likable, "good enough" mix of mystery and supernatural thriller.

Full Review | Original Score: B | Dec 27, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

For his second act - the best and most colorful - Branagh manages to sustain his film with tricks of the horror genre as old as they are elementary. But in this nightmarish Venice, they are beautiful and elegant. [Full Review in Spanish]

Full Review | Original Score: B+ | Dec 24, 2023

Reynolds leads Poirot to a Halloween party in a decaying and haunted palazzo, which provides the perfect backdrop for a spooky, jump-filled series of incidents.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5 | Dec 8, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Taut and effective.

Full Review | Original Score: B+ | Dec 4, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Branagh’s confidence in direction is strong as ever with a narrative half-predicated on thoughtful sound design that equally hinges on his performance, the use of depth in frame draws the eye to clues and behavior while setting the mood

Full Review | Original Score: 74/100 | Nov 19, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

As a review, this film feels like a detective film from days past, younger audiences might want more, but those who enjoy a slow reveal will have a good time. It gets a B grade from me.

Full Review | Original Score: B | Nov 13, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

It’s not the same kind of reliable guilty pleasure we expect these vehicles to be [...] but this outing of Branagh’s Poirot is at least an interesting experiment in expanding these stories' usual limits.

Full Review | Nov 4, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Stunningly cinematically accomplished that it is, this whirlwind spectacle comes out short in the one thing that matters most in a mystery – the story itself. [...] Feels like a hollowed-out pumpkin, minus the candlelight.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Nov 3, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Branagh’s third outing as Poirot is the charm... playing in the what-if gray area opens up options for some great visuals, startling reactions, and cranking up the spooky factor.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4 | Nov 2, 2023

In Branagh’s relatively prolific corner of the playground, the real mystery continues to be how Poirot maintains that motherf—er on his face.

Full Review | Nov 1, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

The secret ingredient has been none other than adapting Agatha Christie through the lens of gothic horror; a subtle twist that instantly turns the fantastic 'Mystery in Venice' into the most stimulating and enjoyable installment of the trilogy.

Full Review | Original Score: 8/10 | Oct 31, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Hercule Poirot is back in this mildly entertaining whodunit with supernatural touches. [Full Review in Spanish]

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4 | Oct 28, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

The film resonates with qualities found in classics of the genre by Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, and is simultaneously reminiscent in its aggressive theatrical approach to Branagh’s own neo-noir thriller “Dead Again” from 1991.

Full Review | Oct 26, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

A Haunting in Venice elevates well-worn genre tropes with exceptional casting and filmmaking flair to create a satisfying experience.

Full Review | Oct 25, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

A Haunting in Venice isn't quite the best of Kenneth Branagh's Hercule Poirot films, but it's still an inspired effort.

Full Review | Original Score: B | Oct 25, 2023

After too many coincidences, Poirot is required to name the killer. Alas, his panache has undergone some wear and tear. Is here anything worse than a gloomy Hercule? He's still a man who needs to think rationally. Solving mysteries is his Belgian waffle.

Full Review | Oct 21, 2023

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Director and star Kenneth Branagh’s third outing as Agatha Christie’s brilliant and persnickety detective is his most satisfying turn yet. ... briskly entertaining Agatha Christie comfort food with a larger theme about the secrets we carry.

Full Review | Oct 13, 2023

  • International edition
  • Australia edition
  • Europe edition

Kenneth Branagh in A Haunting in Venice.

A Haunting in Venice review – Branagh’s Agatha Christie whodunnit given horror makeover

No amount of spooky jump-scares can save Kenneth Branagh’s latest Christie adaptation, which wastes its atmospheric setting and stellar cast

S creenwriter Michael Green and director-star Kenneth Branagh have coaxed another gold-effect egg from that plump goose which is the Agatha Christie estate. Legendary moustachioed Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, played by Branagh, is back for another ensemble outing with many biggish-to-big names phoning it in for the paycheck. This movie appears to be trying for a tougher, nastier, horror-ish feel, perhaps to scoop up some of the younger scary-movie fanbase alongside the Werther’s Original demographic that normally turns out for this kind of thing.

The timeline follows on from the previous Poirot case, Death on the Nile ; the year is 1947, and Hercule Poirot is in genial retirement in Venice, where he employs ex-cop Vitale (Riccardo Scamarcio) as his personal bodyguard. But his friend, the bestselling American mystery author Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) is in town. She impishly persuades him to come with her to a Halloween séance being conducted at a nearby palazzo by the famous psychic Mrs Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) – with a view, of course, to debunking her. Horrible events ensue. Could sinister ghostly forces be at work? Well, Poirot takes a refreshingly atheist view and, like the Scooby-Doo gang, believes that supernatural phenomena and non-rational explanations are a diversionary tactic promoted by those with something to hide.

A Haunting in Venice is freely adapted from a late Agatha Christie novel, Hallowe’en Party, from 1969, and does at least look better than its predecessor, which used cheesy digital effects and back-projections to suggest Egypt and the Nile. Now Branagh is going for something creepier and more claustrophobic: the sepulchral interior of the ancient haunted palazzo, cut off from the police launches by stormy weather, much like the snowed-in country houses of old – although Venice connoisseurs may wonder if there might not be a way, in cases like these, of approaching a palazzo from another direction, by land.

With each new Branagh/Poirot movie I have sat down for some guilty-pleasure fun, and he always brings to the part a basic level of sprightly energy. But each time I have been disappointed by the trudging inertia that sets in – and here by the false-ending, fake-reveal moments which the movie just breezes through, and also by the criminal waste of the supporting cast. In particular the waste of comedy genius Fey, who does a sort of tough-talking broad routine but with no real dialogue material to work with. There is, however, a laugh when Poirot solemnly remarks: “You wake the bear from his sleep, you cannot cry when he tangos.” And Fey acidly replies: “That’s not a saying in any language.”

As in Death on the Nile, A Haunting in Venice takes the story at a pretty even pace, and its jump-scare moments, sometimes accompanied by a close-up of Poirot looking dramatically to his left, do not have the investment that an true horror film would have given them, and so feel just like a hiccup. Well, there’s always hope for future Christie movies with less tricksiness: how about political satire The Augean Stables, about Poirot and a dodgy prime minister?

  • Crime films
  • Agatha Christie
  • Film adaptations
  • Kenneth Branagh
  • Michelle Yeoh

Comments (…)

Most viewed.

Review: With ‘A Haunting in Venice,’ Kenneth Branagh’s Agatha Christie series hits its stride

A man and a woman sit on a bench in 1947 Venice.

  • Show more sharing options
  • Copy Link URL Copied!

Early on in Kenneth Branagh’s delectably creepy “A Haunting in Venice,” as gondolas cut through waterways and the sun sets on one of the world’s most impossibly beautiful cities, there arises a melody that you might recognize as “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis.” It’s a welcome if incongruous choice of music, evoking a bright, cheery vision of early 20th-century America that is otherwise absent from the movie, which is set over a dark and stormy Halloween night in 1947 Italy. In time, though, the allusion will click into place, when a character reminisces about a time during the war when she sought refuge in the 1944 film “Meet Me in St. Louis” over and over again — a poignant testament to how movies can sustain us through our darkest hours.

But there’s more to the allusion than the usual fusty Hollywood nostalgia. “Meet Me in St. Louis,” rightly hailed as a Christmas classic, also happens to feature one hell of a Halloween sequence, where unruly, unsupervised children attack their neighbors, build bonfires in the street and at one point nearly derail a trolley car. That spirit of youthful anarchy makes it a clever reference point for “A Haunting in Venice,” which is very loosely adapted from Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel “Hallowe’en Party,” and which is particularly concerned with the mischievous doings of children, alive and dead.

The action unfolds at a crumbling Venetian palazzo that’s rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of girls and boys who perished years ago during an outbreak of the plague. That makes it a supremely atmospheric setting for a children’s All Hallows’ Eve gathering, though the main event here is the (mostly) adults-only after-party. The owner of the palazzo, a grieving opera soprano named Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly, a master of melancholy), has invited a famous medium, Mrs. Joyce Reynolds (an entrancing Michelle Yeoh) to perform a séance. Their hope is to establish contact with the spirit of Rowena’s daughter, Alicia, who plunged to her death in the canal a year earlier, a tragedy that dovetails with the many before it and portends still more to come.

A woman speaks on the phone.

Into this house of horrors comes the famed Belgian detective and designated party-pooper Hercule Poirot (Branagh), who’s retired from official duty but still willing to take on cases that interest him — or, in this case, offend his strict rationalist instincts. Tricks and treats for the entertainment of small children are all well and good, but for Poirot, the notion of actual occult phenomena is as intolerable as an asymmetrical breakfast spread or an unkempt mustache. And the filmmakers seem to take a particular joy in irritating him this time around, seizing on the cozy tropes of the classical detective story and steering them, with jolting sound effects and grisly imagery, in the direction of full-throttle supernatural horror.

The pleasure proves infectious. Gorgeously shot on location by cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, “A Haunting in Venice” is easily the best of Branagh’s three big-screen Christie adaptations, largely because it is also the most flagrantly unfaithful. If the earlier “Murder on the Orient Express” (2017) and “Death on the Nile” (2022) felt like lavish but superfluous retreads of beloved Christie classics, here, Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green have wisely dispensed with, and ultimately improved on, one of Poirot’s least memorable cases. In “Hallowe’en Party,” a 13-year-old girl is found drowned in an apple-bobbing tub; for the movie, it’s Poirot himself who is nearly pomme -eled to death, assailed from behind by a killer whose ruthlessness is less surprising than their identity.

Tina Fey, Michelle Yeoh and Kenneth Branagh stand at a gate in Venice in the movie "A Haunting in Venice."

Why Agatha Christie’s mousetraps still beguile us, even if the films aren’t always killer

With the release of ‘A Haunting in Venice,’ two Christie obsessives weigh in on the enduring appeal of an author who’s been outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.

Sept. 13, 2023

The victims, suspects, motives and complications pile up swiftly but lucidly. Rowena’s guests, not all of whom were invited, include an angry chef (Kyle Allen), a watchful bodyguard (Riccardo Scamarcio), two shifty Hungarian travelers (Ali Khan and Emma Laird), a troubled doctor and his precocious son (Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill, poignantly updating their parent-child dynamic from Branagh’s “Belfast” ). There’s also an intensely religious housekeeper (a tremulous Camille Cottin) who, like Yeoh’s wide-eyed mystic, mounts a fervent, faith-based explanation for the eerie goings-on at the palazzo, where children’s singsong voices issue forth from the darkness and chandeliers fall and windows burst open of their own accord.

Poirot reacts to all this legerdemain with a disbelieving scowl, even when he can’t fully explain the hair-raising tricks his eyes and ears are playing on him. He is joined in his skepticism, up to a point, by his longtime friend Ariadne Oliver (a very welcome Tina Fey), a successful mystery novelist who functioned in the books as a self-parodying avatar for Christie herself. That dynamic plays out differently here, partly because the character has been recast as an American. Enlivened by Fey’s vinegary wit and Green’s acerbic dialogue, this Miss Oliver is a snappier, more sardonic presence, keeping Poirot’s sizable ego in check even as she tries to lure him out of super-sleuth retirement. She wants to reawaken his sense of purpose and also perhaps her own, to find fresh creative inspiration in an adventure replete with violent death and gothic splendor.

Three adults stand at a gate in Venice.

Branagh certainly succeeds in finding his, as do his gifted collaborators (they include production designer John Paul Kelly and costume designer Sammy Sheldon). Filming on location in Venice, of course, has long been a reliable source of cinematic ensorcellment; if it is possible to shoot an unattractive or unevocative frame of this city, Zambarloukos hasn’t managed it. He and Branagh retain their fondness for extremely canted angles, but here those visual flourishes — a sideways-slanted shot of a piazza, an upward-gazing shot of an open doorway — serve to underscore the spookiness of the setting, the sense of madness that seeps into the air like poison. This is a world whose secret passageways and pitch-black shadows you can get all too happily lost in.

With its paranormal activity and seemingly impossible crimes (including a murder in a locked room), “A Haunting in Venice” sometimes feels closer to the work of the great John Dickson Carr than Christie, even if the solution to the mystery, though clever and convincing, falls short of those authors’ signature ingenuity. What lingers from this movie isn’t the usual assemblage of clues and red herrings — a child’s doll, a jar of honey, a hidden telephone — but a free-floating air of grief, much of it rooted in the characters’ turbulent memories of the war just a few years earlier.

Branagh’s Poirot, himself a World War I veteran, has bared his own physical and psychological scars in this series before. For the first time, though, his backstory doesn’t feel concocted for effect. Instead, it subtly resonates with a case whose rich human dimensions — deferred dreams, unshakable traumas, grieving parents and children — sound a grim echo of the world beyond the whodunit. For all the creakily derivative supernatural hokum on display, the ghosts that haunt this movie turn out to be all too persuasively real.

'A Haunting in Venice'

Rating: PG-13, for some strong violence, disturbing images and thematic elements Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes Playing: Opens Sept. 15 in general release

More to Read

A reanimated corpse is welcomed to a teen's bedroom.

Review: Looking for good boyfriend material? In ‘Lisa Frankenstein,’ try the cemetery

Feb. 7, 2024

People stare into a home's dark corner.

Specters, lies and videotape: Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Presence’ jolts Sundance to life

Jan. 21, 2024

LOS ANGELES, CA - DEC 12: Andrew Haigh photographed at the London West Hollywood

How ‘All of Us Strangers’ takes grief and loss and channels them into healing

Jan. 9, 2024

Only good movies

Get the Indie Focus newsletter, Mark Olsen's weekly guide to the world of cinema.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Justin Chang was a film critic for the Los Angeles Times from 2016 to 2024. He won the 2024 Pulitzer Prize in criticism for work published in 2023. Chang is the author of the book “FilmCraft: Editing” and serves as chair of the National Society of Film Critics and secretary of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.

More From the Los Angeles Times

Several friends sit on the top of a van at night.

Review: In ‘Gasoline Rainbow,’ carefree kids hit the road during a fleeting moment when they can

May 17, 2024

Actor Dabney Coleman sits in a directors chair with his name on it

Dabney Coleman, the bad boss of ‘9 to 5’ and ‘Yellowstone’ guest star, dies at 92

An man in a gray suit stands behind a lectern and in front of a bright blue backdrop

Company Town

New Mexico weighs whether to toss Alec Baldwin criminal charges in ‘Rust’ shooting

Kevin Spacey wearing glasses and in a dark suit, pink dress shirt and red tie standing against a blurred background

Entertainment & Arts

Kevin Spacey says he has ‘so much to offer’ after Hollywood pals demand his comeback

  • Cast & crew
  • User reviews

A Haunting in Venice

Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Yeoh, Tina Fey, Kelly Reilly, Emma Laird, Jude Hill, Riccardo Scamarcio, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Kyle Allen, and Ali Khan in A Haunting in Venice (2023)

In post-World War II Venice, Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once a... Read all In post-World War II Venice, Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once again uncover the killer. In post-World War II Venice, Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once again uncover the killer.

  • Kenneth Branagh
  • Michael Green
  • Agatha Christie
  • Michelle Yeoh
  • Jamie Dornan
  • 488 User reviews
  • 250 Critic reviews
  • 63 Metascore
  • 6 wins & 4 nominations

In Theaters Friday

  • Hercule Poirot

Michelle Yeoh

  • Joyce Reynolds

Jamie Dornan

  • Dr Leslie Ferrier

Tina Fey

  • Ariadne Oliver

Dylan Corbett-Bader

  • Alessandro Longo

Riccardo Scamarcio

  • Vitale Portfoglio

Fernando Piloni

  • Vincenzo Di Stefano

Lorenzo Acquaviva

  • Puppet Show MC

Camille Cottin

  • Olga Seminoff

Kelly Reilly

  • Rowena Drake

Jude Hill

  • Leopold Ferrier
  • Child (Cookie Gobbler)
  • Child (Crying Girl)

Rowan Robinson

  • Alicia Drake

Emma Laird

  • Desdemona Holland

Stella Harris

  • Child (Staircase 1)
  • All cast & crew
  • Production, box office & more at IMDbPro

All About 'A Haunting in Venice'

All About 'A Haunting in Venice'

More like this

Death on the Nile

Did you know

  • Trivia Sir Kenneth Branagh worked with the technical department to cause surprises for the cast. The actors were not warned about lights going out suddenly, or gusts of wind and slamming doors on the sets in which they worked, causing genuine confused and startled reactions from the actors to appear in the film. Kelly Reilly confirmed that filming the seance scene was a terrifying experience saying in an interview, "It scared the bejesus out of me."
  • Goofs Shortly after the first seance, one of the two assistants is seen picking up two hurricane lamps (whch were still alight) by holding them at their tops. Something that would be impossible to do unless you had burn proof hands.

Ariadne Oliver : Scary stories make real life a little less scary

  • Connections Featured in The Project: Episode dated 22 September 2023 (2023)
  • Soundtracks When the Lights Go on Again Written by Bennie Benjamin , Sol Marcus and Eddie Seiler Performed by Vera Lynn Courtesy of Decca Music Group Limited Under license from Universal Music Enterprises

User reviews 488

  • Sep 15, 2023
  • How long is A Haunting in Venice? Powered by Alexa
  • September 15, 2023 (United States)
  • United States
  • 20thcenturystudios
  • Film Sözlük
  • Án Mạng Ở Venice
  • Campiello dei Miracoli, Campo Santa Maria Nova, Venezia, Italy
  • 20th Century Studios
  • Kinberg Genre
  • Scott Free Productions
  • See more company credits at IMDbPro
  • $60,000,000 (estimated)
  • $42,471,412
  • $14,279,529
  • Sep 17, 2023
  • $122,290,456

Technical specs

  • Runtime 1 hour 43 minutes
  • Dolby Atmos
  • IMAX 6-Track

Related news

Contribute to this page.

Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Yeoh, Tina Fey, Kelly Reilly, Emma Laird, Jude Hill, Riccardo Scamarcio, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Kyle Allen, and Ali Khan in A Haunting in Venice (2023)

  • See more gaps
  • Learn more about contributing

More to explore

Production art

Recently viewed

an image, when javascript is unavailable

‘A Haunting In Venice’ Review: Kenneth Branagh Brings a Supernatural Dimension to His Hercule Poirot Series

Tina Fey and Michelle Yeoh are among the latest additions to the ever-expanding ensemble of stars beset by mystery, as Poirot investigates the possibility of ghosts.

By Todd Gilchrist

Todd Gilchrist

  • ‘The Blue Angels’ Review: Dazzling Imax Documentary Showcases Top Guns, but No Mavericks 19 hours ago
  • Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ to Commemorate Its 40th Anniversary With 4K UHD Release 4 days ago
  • How Jerry Seinfeld Parodied the Pop-Tart’s Origins Without Permission: ‘If People Are Dead, It’s Much Harder for Them to Sue You’ 2 weeks ago

(L-R): Tina Fey as Ariadne Oliver and Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot in 20th Century Studios' A HAUNTING IN VENICE. Photo by Rob Youngson. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

An adult-oriented crowd pleaser of the sort that seldom gets made any longer without superheroes being involved, and better than that, is quite entertaining, “ A Haunting in Venice ” extends 2023’s streak as the Year That Hollywood Lured Grown-Ups Back To Theaters. Less prestigious than practiced in spotlighting the star wattage of its pedigreed cast, Kenneth Branagh ’s third Agatha Christie adaptation offers a nimble stopgap between drier art-house fare, traditional studio tentpoles and scrappy genre material leaching ticket sales from their pricier competitors — while satisfying all three potential audiences.

Popular on Variety

As with the previous films in this series (and indeed, in ensemble films like this in general), the casting is key to the success of the story, even more than the resulting solution (or solutions) to its mystery. For better or worse, the star-director takes his foot off the accelerator just a bit to play a slightly less sexy Poirot than in previous outings (that said, get someone who looks at you the way that Branagh looks at Kenneth Branagh). But his comparatively more sober take on the character is born naturally from his circumstances at the beginning of the film, even if Daniel Craig’s resuscitation of Benoit Blanc in “Glass Onion,” who was similarly smarting from inactivity before being called back into service, eats more than a little bit of Poirot’s lunch here.

Even so, who better than Tina Fey to play a self-important, slightly bullying know-it-all who conceals her questionable competence behind a thin layer of condescension? It’s a role that was seemingly born for the actress who brilliantly played Liz Lemon for seven seasons. Meanwhile, a fresh-from-her-Oscar-win Michelle Yeoh beautifully navigates a crucial but sometimes invisible line between empath and charlatan in her limited screen time as Mrs. Reynolds. Jamie Dornan probably qualifies as the next-biggest star in the cast, and he delivers more PTSD than is really required to sell his character Leslie Ferrier’s wartime field surgeon bona fides, but the intensity of his performance provides a nice counterpoint to the turn given by Jude Hill, once again playing Dornan’s onscreen child (after leading Branagh’s “Belfast”) as Leslie’s morbid, precocious son Leopold.

Gifted as they are, Reilly and Scamarcio — along with Kyle Allen as Maxime Gerard, Alicia’s former lover, Camille Cottin as Rowena’s housekeeper Olga Seminoff, and Emma Laird and Ali Khan as Mrs. Reynolds’ assistants Desdemona and Nicholas Holland — show that they understand their respective assignments enough not to stand out, except when necessary as suspects (or red herrings). Conversely, Branagh counts on his longtime cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos to emphasize the space, especially the subjective terror of being in a building whose inhabitants may not all be among the living. Although the duo don’t fully return to the comic-book dutch angles of their work on “Thor,” Zambarloukos’ extensive use of anamorphic lenses (imagine a film shot with your iPhone camera constantly set at .5 distance) amplifies the sensation of something scary lurking in the shadows or just around the corner.

Reviewed at El Capitan Theater, Sept. 6, 2023. MPA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 103 MIN.

  • Production: A 20th Century Studios release and presentation of a Kinberg Genre, The Mark Gordon Co., TSG Entertainment, Agatha Christie Limited, Scott Free production. Producers: Kenneth Branagh, Jody Hofflund, Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott. Executive producers: Mark Gordon, Louise Killin, James Pritchard
  • Crew: Director: Kenneth Branagh. Screenplay: Michael Green, based on the book “Hallowe'en Party” by Agatha Christie. Camera: Haris Zambarloukos. Editor: Lucy Donaldson. Music: Dara Taylor.
  • With: Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, Camille Cottin, Riccardo Scamarcio, Kelly Reilly, Jude Hill, Jamie Dornan, Rowan Robinson, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Laird, Kyle Allen, Ali Khan.
  • Music By: Hildur Guðnadóttir

More From Our Brands

‘furiosa’ isn’t just a prequel to ‘fury road’ — it’s a perfect origin-story saga, inside a new long island home that puts an american spin on a classic european country house, pbr goes live with cbs sports, dr. phil’s merit street media, the best loofahs and body scrubbers, according to dermatologists, blue bloods’ midseason finale gave #jamko fans a little anniversary gift, verify it's you, please log in.


  • Search Please fill out this field.
  • Newsletters
  • Sweepstakes
  • Movie Reviews

A Haunting in Venice review: Kenneth Branagh scares up his best Poirot film yet

Branagh portrays Agatha Christie's favorite detective for the third time in this supernatural thriller.

Maureen Lee Lenker is a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly with over seven years of experience in the entertainment industry. An award-winning journalist, she's written for Turner Classic Movies, Ms. Magazine , The Hollywood Reporter , and more. She's worked at EW for six years covering film, TV, theater, music, and books. The author of EW's quarterly romance review column, "Hot Stuff," Maureen holds Master's degrees from both the University of Southern California and the University of Oxford. Her debut novel, It Happened One Fight , is now available. Follow her for all things related to classic Hollywood, musicals, the romance genre, and Bruce Springsteen.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

While Kenneth Branagh 's first two outings as Agatha Christie detective Hercule Poirot were classic murder mysteries, A Haunting in Venice is, as its name suggests, most decidedly a ghost story.

The slight shift in tone and genre, leaning into the supernatural elements of the storytelling, does wonders for Branagh's take on Poirot, elevating the movie beyond the solid, if somewhat bland entertainment of the first two films. Additionally, while Branagh tackled two of Christie's most famous works in his initial efforts, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile , the lesser-known 1969 novel Hallowe'en Party serves as the source material this time, with screenwriter Michael Green diverging even further from the original story. The result is something altogether more inventive, surprising, and engaging.

Poirot — played again by Branagh, with his thick Belgian accent and piercing blue eyes that seem to discern all wrongdoing — has gone into retirement, holing up in Venice and refusing to take another case. As such, he takes a bit of a backseat to the action, which leaves him to do what he does best: solve murders. There's no pesky, overwrought backstory here, no mustache origin stories. Instead, Branagh inhabits Poirot with an affection and lived-in-ness befitting of his third go with a character he can now don like a favorite sweater.

When an old acquaintance, mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver ( Tina Fey ), visits Poirot, she invites him to attend a Halloween party and seance at the Palazzo of famed opera singer Rowena Drake ( Kelly Reilly ). Some months prior, Rowena's daughter, Alicia (Rowan Robinson), committed suicide by jumping from the balcony into the canal below. Desperate to hear her daughter's voice, Rowena recruits famed medium Mrs. Reynolds ( Michelle Yeoh ) to contact Alicia's spirit. But when the evening goes drastically wrong, the ensemble — which includes housekeeper Olga Seminoff (Camille Cottin), shell-shocked doctor Leslie Ferrier ( Jamie Dornan ), his precocious son Leopold ( Belfast's Jude Hill), and Reynolds' assistant Desdemona (Emma Laird) — find themselves locked in a house that boasts all manner of horrors.

Branagh, teaming with cinematographer and frequent collaborator Haris Zambarloukos, transforms the Palazzo into an off-kilter haunted house and relies on canted angles to indicate the unbalanced state of Poirot's mind. While Orient Express and Nile were designed to showcase the opulence of their settings, here Zambarloukos is much more inventive with his shot set-ups, using fish-eye lenses, tilted frames, darkness, shadow, and severe high and low angles to thrust the audience into this unsettling world.

Poirot and, by extension, the audience are never quite sure whether what they're seeing is real or not — and much of the film is built upon the legacy of ghost stories and how and why we choose to believe them. The design, from the cinematography to the art direction, enhance this sense of supernatural unease. We trust Poirot to have an explanation for everything, but what happens when he simply does not? That's the question at the heart of the action, a ghostly war between Poirot's reliance on deduction and logic and the far more human, irrational foibles of loss, greed, obsession, and the unexplainable.

Branagh leads a strong ensemble here. Yeoh is satisfyingly mercenary and chilling as Ms. Reynolds, toeing the line between canny businesswoman and purveyor of spiritualism in a way that keeps us guessing. While Cottin, largely unknown to American audiences, is inscrutable in the best way, her stern exterior belying her kindly heart.

Fey offers some of her strongest work in years. Generally, she plays a heightened version of herself, but here she is a heavily fictionalized play on Christie, a mystery novelist responsible for Poirot's fame. As Oliver, she is spritely, a tad vain, and a mercurial presence that keeps Poirot and the audience on their toes. At first glance, Fey seems an odd fit for a period piece; she's so firmly associated with a specific brand of modern comedy. But she sinks into the world with gusto, complete with a believable, delightful transatlantic accent.

Dornan, who Branagh featured so exquisitely in Belfast, is a bit underused here as a doctor coming apart at the seams. But his chemistry with Hill, who reprises the father-son relationship with Dornan after Belfast , is perfection — and Hill continues to grow as a natural actor who pulls your eye straight to him in every scene. Branagh has found a real talent in the young performer and continues to mold him admirably.

Perhaps what is most satisfying about A Haunting in Venice is the ways in which it continually surprises. Where the previous Christie adaptations felt by the book, Venice startles at every turn and isn't afraid of jump scares and genuine moments of horror. It is more mystery or thriller than scary movie — and it effectively takes up the themes of the greatest mystery writers, the ways in which grief, trauma, and loss defy even the most rational of brains. The most frightening thing of all isn't the prospect of ghosts, but the ways in which our choices and our pasts haunt us more effectively than any supernatural specter could.

Amidst all this, Venice is also just a heck of a lot of fun, from its eerie Venetian mask costumes to the intriguing ways in which its central mysteries unfold. With heaps of atmosphere and a general spookiness, it's the perfect choice for a Halloween party. Grade: B

Want more movie news? Sign up for Entertainment Weekly 's free newsletter to get the latest trailers, celebrity interviews, film reviews, and more.

Related content:

  • Kenneth Branagh surprised A Haunting in Venice actors with effects on set: 'They had no warning'
  • Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, and Michelle Yeoh can't hide from their ghosts in A Haunting in Venice teaser
  • Kenneth Branagh wins his first Oscar for Belfast after 8 career nominations

Related Articles

A Haunting In Venice Review

A Haunting In Venice

15 Sep 2023

A Haunting In Venice

Both the selling-point and the limitation of the Poirot films is that you know exactly what you’re getting. The time-period and the tone are so set in stone that it requires a fresh A-list cast of suspects and new scenic location to differentiate each from the last (see also: Bond, Fast & Furious ). So credit where it’s due to Kenneth Branagh , who has given this a shockingly different feel even while hitting all the necessary beats.

A Haunting In Venice

The first slight change wrought by Branagh and writer Michael Green is the time-period: contrary to the traditional Agatha Christie interwar setting, this takes place in 1947. Poirot (Branagh) has retired from detecting, much to the chagrin of many would-be clients who camp outside his door nightly and are repelled by his bodyguard Portfoglio (Riccardo Scamarcio). But the arrival of his pal Ariadne Oliver ( Tina Fey ), a crime writer, tempts him back. She wants him to debunk the work of psychic Mrs Reynolds ( Michelle Yeoh ), who has lined up a Halloween séance in the crumbling palazzo of grieving opera diva Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly).

This new tactic of rewriting obscure Christie novels with wild abandon shows real promise.

There’s a creepier energy here, the plot packed not only with murders but possibly paranormal events, out of keeping with standard whodunnit vibes, Poirot struggling to separate ghost from reality. To emphasise the eeriness, Branagh gives free rein to his long-standing weakness for a Dutch angle, tilting the camera every which way, looking for the creepiest corners of the storm-wracked palazzo, while cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos keeps the lighting just the right side of dingy.

Surrounding Branagh’s reliable Poirot, it’s a mixed bag. Fey brings screwball energy to Oliver, while Reilly seems both delicate and desperate. But Yeoh doesn’t get to do much more than pose, make vaguely sinister statements and be insulted by both Poirot and Oliver. The Belfast reteaming of Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill gives the latter more to do, oddly, though Dornan is suitably twitchy as a veteran with PTSD.

In the end, it still comes down to a gathering of the survivors for a grand reveal and an impossibly convoluted explanation. Some things are essential — and we wouldn’t want this old dog to reveal too many new tricks. Strain too hard for change and you end up with backstories for facial hair and similar madness. Still, this new tactic of rewriting obscure Christie novels with wild abandon shows real promise.

Related Articles

A Haunting In Venice

Movies | 19 07 2023

Ryan Reynolds

Movies | 11 06 2023

A Haunting In Venice

Movies | 26 04 2023

A Haunting In Venice

an image, when javascript is unavailable

By providing your information, you agree to our Terms of Use and our Privacy Policy . We use vendors that may also process your information to help provide our services. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA Enterprise and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

‘A Haunting in Venice’ Review: A Supernatural Twist Can’t Energize Kenneth Branagh’s Lethargic Hercule Poirot

Christian zilko.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share to Flipboard
  • Share on LinkedIn
  • Show more sharing options
  • Submit to Reddit
  • Post to Tumblr
  • Print This Page
  • Share on WhatsApp

Kenneth Branagh ‘s Hercule Poirot series — which began with 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express” and continued with last year’s superior “Death on the Nile” — has emerged as a straightforward alternative for mystery purists turned off by the flashiness of the “Knives Out” films. While Johnson keeps reminding us that murder mysteries are living, breathing entities that can push narrative boundaries and make us laugh and think (while occasionally being too online for their own good), Branagh’s faithful adaptations of Agatha Christie classics function as a control group making the case that the genre was doing just fine for the past century. Having both franchises running at the same time has benefitted both old and new mystery fans — the world gets to observe Christie’s ongoing influence on pop culture while revisiting her best works. Related Stories ‘The Surfer’ Review: Nicolas Cage Goes Mad in This Hallucinatory Australian Thriller Dabney Coleman, Emmy-Winning Character Actor Who Became One of Hollywood’s Go-To Villains, Dead at 92

Branagh launched his series with Christie’s most obvious starting points, kicking things off with her best-selling “Orient Express” before adapting her beloved “Death on the Nile” (which came with a campy hook about a cruise ship carrying enough champagne to fill the eponymous river). But while Christie’s massive bibliography contains enough quality mysteries to fill several lifetimes of filmmaking, there wasn’t a third novel with comparable obvious name recognition. So Branagh got creative for his third film , taking Christie’s Gothic-tinged mystery “Hallowe’en Party” and moving the setting from England to Italy to make “ A Haunting in Venice .”

Without the intellectual stimulation of solving crimes, he has to find other ways to keep his brain sharp. When his old friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), a mystery novelist whose knack for puzzles rivals his own, invites him to a Halloween party to help her expose a grifting psychic, he soon finds himself attending a post-soiree seance at a Gothic manor that has been the site of unimaginable tragedies. The party’s hosts have spent years grieving the suicide of their young daughter, who fell to her death from one of the tower’s highest windows. The unexpected death tore the extended family apart, prompting brutal divorces and crippling mental health problems for her father.

It’s unsurprising that the parents have taken comfort in “communicating” with their late daughter through the psychic communications of alleged medium Joyce Reynolds (a predictably stylish Michelle Yeoh). But it doesn’t take long for Poirot to spot an assistant hiding in the chimney and expose her act as a fraud. The aging detective takes the opportunity to soliloquize about his distaste for psychics who prey on vulnerable people for money and state his disbelief in supernatural events.

On paper, “A Haunting in Venice” has all the components of a great whodunnit. A star-studded cast solving a Gothic mystery in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities should be enough to entice any Christie devotee. But no amount of star power can compensate for the fact that no one seems to be having any fun. Yeoh makes a commendable effort to craft a three-dimensional femme fatale, but the rest of the cast seems content to put on a melodrama with all the excitement of a jigsaw puzzle called “The Wheat Field.”

Despite the franchises’ obvious differences, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the shadow that the “Knives Out” movies cast over Branagh’s self-described “Christie-verse.” While you certainly can’t hate a movie for differing from an unrelated director’s vision, stuffy adaptations like “A Haunting in Venice” seem even stuffier when Johnson is constantly reminding us how much of the genre’s uncharted territory is waiting to be explored.

“A Haunting in Venice” opens in theaters on Friday, September 15.

Most Popular

You may also like.

Nicolas Cage’s Sun-Bleached, Rat-Munching Mind-Bender ‘The Surfer’ Makes Waves at Cannes With Six-Minute Standing Ovation

Find anything you save across the site in your account

They Came by Night

By Anthony Lane

A silhouette of people standing on a boat.

Published in 1969, Agatha Christie’s “ Hallowe’en Party ” is largely set in the fictional town of Woodleigh Common, “an ordinary sort of place,” thirty or forty miles from London. Thanks to the director Kenneth Branagh and his screenwriter, Michael Green, the book has become a new film, “A Haunting in Venice,” and the action has shifted to Italy in 1947. Now, that’s an adaptation—a bolder metamorphosis than anything essayed by Branagh and Green in “ Murder on the Orient Express ” (2017) or “ Death on the Nile ” (2022). I’m already looking forward to their next reworking of Christie: “The Body in the Library,” perhaps, relocated to the freezer aisle of a Walmart.

Branagh returns as Hercule Poirot, who has retired to a Venetian fastness. There, ignoring the pleas of the importunate, who bug him with their private mysteries, he tends his garden, inspecting his plants through a magnifying glass as if to expose any guilty aphids. A local heavy named Portfoglio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who sounds like a stockbroker but is actually an ex-cop, functions as a gatekeeper. The one outsider to whom he allows entry is Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), a crime novelist on the make. She urges the sleuth to accompany her to a séance, where a celebrated medium, Mrs. Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), will make contact with the beyond. Ariadne’s plan is that Poirot, as an arch-rationalist, will debunk the claims of the paranormal. And Branagh’s plan, as a guileful filmmaker, is to rebunk them to the hilt.

Prepare yourself, therefore, for all the tricks. A palazzo, said to be stuffed with ghosts and currently occupied by an operatic soprano, Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly), who hasn’t sung a note since her daughter, Alicia (Rowan Robinson), fell into a canal and drowned. A parrot called Harry, who has kept his beak shut for the same reason. A housekeeper (Camille Cottin) given to speaking in Latin, who alone has access to the daughter’s room. A British doctor (Jamie Dornan), traumatized by his wartime experience. A handsome and reliably vacant rotter (Kyle Allen), who was once betrothed to Alicia and jilted her, apparently for money, which seems fair enough to me. A concealed basement, complete with skeletons. A knitted rabbit. Missing bees. A typewriter whose keys depress themselves. A lashing nocturnal storm so wild that, when death descends, the police cannot reach the scene, meaning that Poirot must lock everyone in and— mon Dieu —solve the crime before breakfast.

I remember being scared by “Hallowe’en Party” when I read it as a child, because the first victim was a child: a girl of twelve or thirteen, whose head was forced down into a bucket of water while she was bobbing for apples. (Christie could be cruel, when she wished, in the matter of fun gone wrong.) As if by way of redemption, the most interesting figure in “A Haunting in Venice” is another kid—Leopold, the doctor’s son, played by Jude Hill, who was the rascally tyke at the heart of Branagh’s “ Belfast ” (2021). Here, Hill is scrubbed clean of any cuteness; instead, he presents us with a kind of precocious mini-Poirot, solemnly clad in a dark suit and tie. Leopold cares for his quaking father, reads Edgar Allan Poe, and, asked about his sympathy with the dead, replies, “Some of them are my friends.” He and the boy in “The Sixth Sense” (1999) would have plenty to talk about.

For the constitutionally morbid, such as Leopold, nowhere can outgloom Venice. “The most beautiful of tombs,” Henry James called it, and I am always bemused by its reputation as a romantic refuge. How can you honeymoon in a city defined by dissolution and decay? Think of Joseph Losey, who took a Hollywood potboiler, James Hadley Chase’s “Eve,” and, like Branagh, moved the plot to Venice. The result was “Eva” (1962), a memorial to disenchantment, in which Jeanne Moreau, as a heedless hedonist, left her lover with his dignity drenched and his heart in ruins. Part of the film unfolded on Torcello, in winter, far from the dazzle of the Grand Canal.

If every Venetian tale has been told, then, and every view exhaustively documented in print or paint, what can “A Haunting in Venice” hope to add to the mix? It’s only a couple of months since Hayley Atwell and Rebecca Ferguson were busy battling a villain on one of the city’s bridges in the latest “Mission: Impossible,” and, for the Venetian mourning of drowned daughters, there is nothing to rival “Don’t Look Now” (1973). Yet Branagh’s film has the charm of ridiculous excess: stylistic flourishes are piled high into a treasury of gothic camp, and the camera is tilted, regardless of provocation, at the most alarming angles—Dutch angles, as they are known in the trade. If you really want to feel at home, M. Poirot, forget Venice. Onward to Amsterdam!

According to the historical record, Augusto Pinochet , who came to power in Chile after a military coup fifty years ago, was born in 1915 and died in 2006. According to “El Conde,” on the other hand, a new movie from the Chilean director Pablo Larraín, Pinochet was around for centuries. He began as Claude Pinoche, a young French officer in the army of Louis XVI, who observed the excesses of the French Revolution at close quarters—so close that, after the execution of Marie Antoinette, he snuck up to the guillotine and licked her blood from the blade. This was no regular brute, you see. He was a vampire.

Such is the conceit that drives this unusual film. Tracking the course of Pinochet’s misdeeds, it jumps forward to the modern age, passes swiftly over the span of his dictatorial reign, and alights on his casket as he lies in state. A small window shows the peaceful visage of the deceased, who opens his eyes and steals a glance, clearly impatient to rise again and resume his thirsty trade. Simple blood, we learn, does not satisfy Pinochet’s discerning palate; instead, he plucks out his victims’ hearts, pops them in a blender, and quaffs the liquidized gloop. Aside from a last-minute coda, “El Conde”—“The Count”—is entirely in black-and-white. The gore is as dark as tar.

The bulk of the story is set on a remote Chilean ranch. The sole occupants are Pinochet (Jaime Vadell), his wife, Lucía Hiriart (Gloria Münchmeyer), and their servant, Fyodor (Alfredo Castro), who takes great pride in the chronicle of his sadism, as meted out during the rule of the junta. To this desolate spot come Pinochet’s five children, who profess a feeble strain of love for their father but are mainly after his money. An accountant by the name of Carmencita (Paula Luchsinger) arrives, to sort out the family finances, not least the funds that were stashed away like a squirrel’s nuts. Carmencita, however, has a secret plan; she is a nun, in civilian disguise, and her suitcase is filled with the tools of an exorcist. The stakes are high.

Vampires notwithstanding, no one in the movie makes a more striking impact than Luchsinger. Close-cropped, sharp-featured, round-eyed, and beaming, she radiates a militant innocence. Yet her character’s purpose becomes perilously blurred, and there is something slack and unfocussed at the core of the plot. The more that Larraín tries to grab your attention with moral grotesquerie, as the Pinochets bicker over the legacy of the undead, the less inclined you are to yield. My suspicion is that “El Conde” is a one-trick tale. The image of a tyrant as an actual bloodsucker, rather than as a harsh subduer of his compatriots, would be meat and drink—especially drink—to a political cartoonist, but it has no narrative force to match its satirical bite. Few jokes, no matter how sick and strong, can be told over and over without beginning to fade.

The film is narrated in the unmistakable tones of Margaret Thatcher (Stella Gonet), who deigns to make a guest appearance in the later stages. It is true that, after Pinochet was indicted for human-rights violations in 1998, and held under house arrest in Britain, Thatcher (and George H. W. Bush) argued that he should be released. Anyone watching “El Conde,” though, and knowing little of that period, will be left with the impression that she was not so much Pinochet’s ally as his monstrous mate—even, perhaps, his superior—with savage tastes of her own. Like him, she flies serenely through vast gray skies, her cape spread out in a bat’s wing. Being a lady, she sips blood from a china cup, as if it were Earl Grey tea.

The fact that Thatcher, unlike Pinochet, was fairly elected, and that she governed a country in which you could call the Prime Minister a vampire without getting thrown out of a helicopter or beaten to a pulp, may be too fine and too dull a distinction to trouble Larraín. His is a curious case: his work has grown sillier, not wiser, in his maturity. The baroque paranoia of “Jackie” (2016), “Spencer” (2021), and “El Conde,” bulging with nightmares of conspiracy, is less persuasive than the urgency of “NO” (2012). That was Larraín’s best film, firmly grounded in the campaign to defeat Pinochet in a referendum of 1988, and peopled with ordinary Chileans who had endured more than enough and gathered themselves to hit back. Where are such folk in “El Conde”? Who needs a movie that is almost all predators, with barely a word from their prey? ♦

New Yorker Favorites

The day the dinosaurs died .

What if you started itching— and couldn’t stop ?

How a notorious gangster was exposed by his own sister .

Woodstock was overrated .

Diana Nyad’s hundred-and-eleven-mile swim .

Photo Booth: Deana Lawson’s hyper-staged portraits of Black love .

Fiction by Roald Dahl: “The Landlady”

Sign up for our daily newsletter to receive the best stories from The New Yorker .

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement and Privacy Policy & Cookie Statement . This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Class Consciousness for Billionaires

By Benjamin Wallace-Wells

The British Museum’s Blockbuster Scandals

By Rebecca Mead

Work Sucks. What Could Salvage It?

By Erik Baker

How to Play Putin

By Michael Schulman

‘A Haunting in Venice’: Branagh’s Poirot returns in moody mystery

Agatha Christie’s famed Belgian detective investigates a death at a séance in this whodunit, made less gloomy by a vivid supporting cast

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Grief casts a heavy pall in “A Haunting in Venice,” Kenneth Branagh’s third installment of his Hercule Poirot series. As both a director and an actor, Branagh has sought to imbue the meticulously groomed Belgian detective — one of Agatha Christie’s most beloved creations — with psychological depth, even darkness. Since 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express” and last year’s “Death on the Nile,” that aspiration has yielded some interesting artistic choices but, on a pure entertainment level, diminishing returns.

“A Haunting in Venice” opens to moody shots of St. Mark’s Square in the titular city, set to strains of Hildur Gudnadottir’s elegiac score; set in 1947, and moved to Italy from the English setting of Christie’s novel “Hallowe’en Party,” from which this film is adapted, “A Haunting in Venice” is, true to its title, awash in rue and regret, from the lingering traumas of World War II to Poirot’s loss of his beloved Katherine, who lost her life in World War I. Poirot has by now retired from detecting, happy to tend to his neatly arranged garden and avoid would-be clients. His self-exile, enforced by an intimidating bodyguard played by Riccardo Scamarcio, is impenetrable, at least until he’s visited by Ariadne Oliver, a tart-tongued mystery author portrayed with wry unflappability by Tina Fey.

With her delivery reminiscent of 1940s screwball comedies and an ever-present skeptical twinkle in her eye, Fey provides welcome levity in an otherwise pretty gloomy undertaking: When Ariadne invites Poirot to a séance at a supposedly cursed palazzo on All Hallows’ Eve, “A Haunting in Venice” becomes a classic locked-room mystery, in this case featuring a spooky house; a couple of murders; and lots of bangs, clangs and jump scares, which Branagh heightens through weirdly canted camera angles, image-distorting lenses and a bone-rattling sound design.

The 9 hottest movies opening this fall

Of course, the main event in any Agatha Christie thriller is the motley crew of suspects whose hidden motivations and connections eventually come to light. Branagh has assembled a first-class ensemble to bring interest to what, in lesser hands, would simply be scenes of people talking. In “A Haunting in Venice,” Poirot — working in tandem with Ariadne — casts his first suspicions on Mrs. Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), a psychic — or is she a quack? — who has been summoned to the palazzo by the famous opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly) to contact Drake’s dead daughter Alicia. A suitably vivid cast of supporting players have been invited or just show up to maximize the drama, including Dr. Ferrier, plunged into depression by what he saw in the war, as well as his failure to save Alicia, and his precocious son Leopold — the two are played by Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill, respectively, both of whom starred in Branagh’s “ Belfast ” — and a devout housekeeper named Olga Seminoff (Camille Cottin), who tries to neutralize the supernatural proceedings by way of constant prayer.

Working from a script by Michael Green, Branagh gives “A Haunting in Venice” a melancholy and often genuinely scary sense of doom, filming in sepulchral tones and keeping the audience disoriented by way of visual non sequiturs and murky, dreamlike sequences. It turns out that the visual language of “A Haunting in Venice” isn’t just for style’s sake; the overall effect gives the movie a lugubriousness that feels increasingly oppressive as the night wears on and every character, it seems, is primed to deliver a somber disquisition on death.

In other words, “A Haunting in Venice” isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs. But that’s no doubt as intended by Branagh, who seems intent on rescuing Poirot from the reassuring, too-cute world of “cozy” mysteries and grounding him in the real-life loss and emotional dislocation of the postwar eras from which he sprang. His Poirot is more than the “ leetle gray cells” that allow him to solve even a crime from beyond the grave. Connected to that prodigious brain, Branagh insists, beats a mournful and all-too-human heart.

PG-13. At area theaters. Contains some strong violence, disturbing images and mature thematic elements. 103 minutes.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Common Sense Media

Movie & TV reviews for parents

  • For Parents
  • For Educators
  • Our Work and Impact

Or browse by category:

  • Get the app
  • Movie Reviews
  • Best Movie Lists
  • Best Movies on Netflix, Disney+, and More

Common Sense Selections for Movies

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

50 Modern Movies All Kids Should Watch Before They're 12

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

  • Best TV Lists
  • Best TV Shows on Netflix, Disney+, and More
  • Common Sense Selections for TV
  • Video Reviews of TV Shows

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Best Kids' Shows on Disney+

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Best Kids' TV Shows on Netflix

  • Book Reviews
  • Best Book Lists
  • Common Sense Selections for Books

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

8 Tips for Getting Kids Hooked on Books

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

50 Books All Kids Should Read Before They're 12

  • Game Reviews
  • Best Game Lists

Common Sense Selections for Games

  • Video Reviews of Games

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Nintendo Switch Games for Family Fun

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

  • Podcast Reviews
  • Best Podcast Lists

Common Sense Selections for Podcasts

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Parents' Guide to Podcasts

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

  • App Reviews
  • Best App Lists

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Social Networking for Teens

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Gun-Free Action Game Apps

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Reviews for AI Apps and Tools

  • YouTube Channel Reviews
  • YouTube Kids Channels by Topic

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Parents' Ultimate Guide to YouTube Kids

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

YouTube Kids Channels for Gamers

  • Preschoolers (2-4)
  • Little Kids (5-7)
  • Big Kids (8-9)
  • Pre-Teens (10-12)
  • Teens (13+)
  • Screen Time
  • Social Media
  • Online Safety
  • Identity and Community

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Explaining the News to Our Kids

  • Family Tech Planners
  • Digital Skills
  • All Articles
  • Latino Culture
  • Black Voices
  • Asian Stories
  • Native Narratives
  • LGBTQ+ Pride
  • Best of Diverse Representation List

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Celebrating Black History Month

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Movies and TV Shows with Arab Leads

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Celebrate Hip-Hop's 50th Anniversary

A haunting in venice, common sense media reviewers.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Stark, spooky Hercule Poirot murder mystery has violence.

A Haunting in Venice Movie Poster: Five people stand in a circle against a black background, looking down

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Addresses ideas related to faith/belief in the for

Hercule Poirot, like Sherlock Holmes, is fascinati

Main character Hercule Poirot is a White man. Most

Murders and jump scares. Character falls from heig

Sporadic language includes "s--t," "bastard," "Chr

A boy offers to get his distraught father "a pill.

Parents need to know that A Haunting in Venice is writer-director and star Kenneth Branagh's third murder mystery centering on novelist Agatha Christie's brilliant detective Hercule Poirot. It has a different tone from predecessors Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile : It's…

Positive Messages

Addresses ideas related to faith/belief in the form of arguments about whether ghosts are real, whether there's an afterlife, whether there's a human soul. But in the end, movie suggests that nobody knows for sure and that anything's possible. (There's a sense of hope.) Scenes involving a scary shadow-play story lead to a character saying that "Scary stories make life less scary."

Positive Role Models

Hercule Poirot, like Sherlock Holmes, is fascinating. He's extremely bright, he grasps everything. But he seems sad, suffering from untold losses. He spends most of his time alone, seems locked into a very rigid way of thinking. His intelligence and skill are inspiring, but he's probably not someone to emulate in the long run. Other characters have flaws and questionable motivations. Women are smart, sharp, business savvy. Some characters are disbelievers in ghosts/the afterlife, some prey on the beliefs of the believers. One character says, "there is no such thing as psychic phenomena ... there is only psychic pain."

Diverse Representations

Main character Hercule Poirot is a White man. Most other characters are White, although performers come from all over Europe and Asia: Ireland (Branagh, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill), England (Emma Laird, Kelly Reilly), France (Camille Cottin), Italy (Riccardo Scamarcio), Malaysia (Michelle Yeoh), and the United States (Tina Fey). The actor who plays Nicholas Holland, Ali Khan, appears to be of Indian descent. Other characters of color appear in small/background parts. Women are depicted as smart, independent, and confident.

Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.

Violence & Scariness

Murders and jump scares. Character falls from height and is impaled on statue. Character impales self with sword. Spooky stuff: ghosts, sudden noises, screaming, doors slamming, things falling, glass breaking, etc. Fighting, punching, slapping. One person holds another's head over broken window glass. Flashbacks to a person sinking into water and drowning, with others retrieving her lifeless body from the water. Poison used. Four large scratch marks on character's back. One person "clotheslines" another with his outstretched arm; the person hits the ground. Attempted drowning in a tub of apples. Character pushed off of bridge into water. People violently throw things across room. Character tripped by sliding crate. Threats. Cut finger. A bird suddenly attacks another bird. Bees fly out of a skeleton's mouth. A character talks about being a soldier, liberating the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and contending with typhus and death; he admits to "shooting himself through the chest." Dialogue about children locked in a basement and left to die.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sporadic language includes "s--t," "bastard," "Christ" (as an exclamation), "damn," "hell."

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A boy offers to get his distraught father "a pill."

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that A Haunting in Venice is writer-director and star Kenneth Branagh 's third murder mystery centering on novelist Agatha Christie's brilliant detective Hercule Poirot. It has a different tone from predecessors Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile : It's more contemplative, stark, and spooky. Violence includes murders, jump scares, people being impaled (one by a statue, one by a sword), ghosts, sudden noises, screaming, glass breaking, attempted drowning, fighting, punching, slapping, threatening with broken glass, poison, injury, and more. A woman is seen slipping under water and drowning, and there's discussion over whether she was murdered or died by suicide. Another character discusses an attempt at suicide. Infrequent language includes "s--t," "bastard," "Christ" (as an exclamation), "damn," and "hell." A boy offers to get his distraught father "a pill." The movie is quietly, eerily effective, raising questions about ideas related to faith and belief in the form of arguments about whether ghosts are real, whether there's an afterlife, and whether there's a human soul. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

Where to Watch

Videos and photos.

Detective Hercule Poirot staring ahead

Community Reviews

  • Parents say (8)
  • Kids say (16)

Based on 8 parent reviews

Boring and Dark

A little creepy but still very christie, what's the story.

In A HAUNTING IN VENICE, Hercule Poirot ( Kenneth Branagh ) is retired and living in Venice. He's hired a former police officer, Vitale Portfoglio ( Riccardo Scamarcio ), as a bodyguard to ward off desperate people looking for sleuthing services. Then Poirot is visited by bestselling mystery author Ariadne Oliver ( Tina Fey ), who has a proposition. She's working on a book about a famous medium, Joyce Reynolds ( Michelle Yeoh ). She can't figure out how Reynolds does her supernatural seances and wants Poirot to accompany her to see if he can find anything. They attend a Halloween party for orphans at the palazzo of Rowena Drake ( Kelly Reilly ), who, after the party, wishes to contact the spirit of her daughter, Alicia. Alicia had fallen from the balcony and drowned; it may or may not have been murder. Lo and behold, more murders start happening, and Poirot goes to work seeking the facts and finding a suspect. But something is wrong: Poirot himself has begun hearing voices and seeing ghosts.

Is It Any Good?

Stark and spooky, Branagh's third Poirot movie successfully adopts a whole new atmosphere. It's less exotic and edgier, more haunted; it's a tense, thoughtful, and satisfying mystery. Murder on the Orient Express had a fluid use of space aboard a cramped, moving train, while Death on the Nile used bright, open spaces. A Haunting in Venice , which is mainly set indoors, during a storm, and in the late hours of Halloween night -- when the barrier between the living and the dead is said to be at its thinnest -- plays with more shadowy, angular, and even hallucinogenic filmmaking.

Author Agatha Christie published the source novel, Hallowe'en Party , in 1969, more than 30 years after the Orient Express and Nile novels, perhaps suggesting a hard-earned fatalism, which Branagh attaches to this movie's fabric. He seems freshly inspired, and his direction flourishes through Christie's material. As ever, he's equally adept with his actors, himself giving an appealingly wounded performance while slowly stripping away the other characters' veneers of protection, revealing their painful pasts. The mystery itself is clever and effective, though it comes almost with a sense of resignation; there's no joy in solving this murder. Even so, A Haunting in Venice leaves off with a sense of promise.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about A Haunting in Venice 's violence . How much is actually shown? What's the impact of the violence that's not shown? Is that thrilling, or shocking?

What's the appeal of scary movies ? Why is it sometimes fun to be scared?

Which characters are "good," and which are "bad" -- or is it hard to tell? Why do films often want viewers to see people as one way or another, rather than showing humans' capacity to be both?

Like Poirot, do you believe that there are simple, black-and-white solutions for every problem? Why, or why not?

Why do you think author Agatha Christie and Poirot have such enduring appeal?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : September 15, 2023
  • On DVD or streaming : November 28, 2023
  • Cast : Kenneth Branagh , Tina Fey , Michelle Yeoh , Jamie Dornan
  • Director : Kenneth Branagh
  • Inclusion Information : Female actors, Asian actors, Middle Eastern/North African writers
  • Studio : 20th Century Studios
  • Genre : Thriller
  • Run time : 103 minutes
  • MPAA rating : PG-13
  • MPAA explanation : some strong violence, disturbing images and thematic elements
  • Last updated : January 27, 2024

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Suggest an Update

Our editors recommend.

Death on the Nile Poster Image

Death on the Nile

Want personalized picks for your kids' age and interests?

Murder on the Orient Express

Knives Out Poster Image

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) Poster Image

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Best mystery movies, best ghost stories for kids and teens.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

UK Edition Change

  • UK Politics
  • News Videos
  • Paris 2024 Olympics
  • Rugby Union
  • Sport Videos
  • John Rentoul
  • Mary Dejevsky
  • Andrew Grice
  • Sean O’Grady
  • Photography
  • Theatre & Dance
  • Culture Videos
  • Fitness & Wellbeing
  • Food & Drink
  • Health & Families
  • Royal Family
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Car Insurance Deals
  • Lifestyle Videos
  • UK Hotel Reviews
  • News & Advice
  • Simon Calder
  • Australia & New Zealand
  • South America
  • C. America & Caribbean
  • Middle East
  • Politics Explained
  • News Analysis
  • Today’s Edition
  • Home & Garden
  • Broadband deals
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Travel & Outdoors
  • Sports & Fitness
  • Sustainable Living
  • Climate Videos
  • Solar Panels
  • Behind The Headlines
  • On The Ground
  • Decomplicated
  • You Ask The Questions
  • Binge Watch
  • Travel Smart
  • Watch on your TV
  • Crosswords & Puzzles
  • Most Commented
  • Newsletters
  • Ask Me Anything
  • Virtual Events
  • Betting Sites
  • Online Casinos
  • Wine Offers

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in Please refresh your browser to be logged in

A Haunting in Venice review: Poirot meets the supernatural in Kenneth Branagh’s third middle-of-the-road chiller

Michelle yeoh comfortably steals the show in this starry adaptation of lesser-known mystery ‘hallowe’en party’, article bookmarked.

Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile

The Life Cinematic

Get our free weekly email for all the latest cinematic news from our film critic Clarisse Loughrey

Get our the life cinematic email for free, thanks for signing up to the the life cinematic email.

If there’s anything to be gleaned from A Haunting in Venice , it’s that Kenneth Branagh should make more horror movies. His quasi-notorious allegiance to cinematic trickery – lopsided Dutch angles, unusual POVs, and frenetically edited sequences – has often felt out of step with the subjects depicted on screen. It proved a distraction from the glossy adventures of Marvel’s Thor , the domesticity of Belfast , and the elegant logic of his previous Agatha Christie adaptations: 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express and last year’s Death on the Nile .

But, for his third film based on Christie’s Poirot novels, Branagh has turned his attention to one of the author’s lesser-known stories, Hallowe’en Party . Its humdrum, English hamlet locale has been swapped for the fog-choked canals of Venice, and a crumbling palazzo with death in its walls. As it turns out, it’s fairly unsurprising that an artist with roots in the illusionist, symbolic world of Shakespearean theatre, who’s already adapted Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , would turn in a capable, classic chiller that’s actually quite scary when it needs to be. Finally, all of his gimmicks have found their home.

Christie’s original story has been entirely refurbished by screenwriter Michael Green, embellished now with the series’s continuing obsession with trauma and psychoanalysis – Poirot, of course, can only be Poirot thanks to a baptism-by-fire-approach to tragedy and loss. To know how death operates, one must be familiar with its stench. After a valiant attempt at retirement, Poirot is apprehended by his old friend and celebrated author Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), a recurring character in Christie’s work who essentially serves as her stand-in. She’s convinced she’s found someone who can finally stump the great detective: the “unholy Ms Reynolds” ( Michelle Yeoh ), a medium.

Reynolds’s presence has been requested by a local Venetian, Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly). Her daughter died by suicide, drowned in the canal after leaping from her bedroom balcony. The au pair, Olga Seminoff (Camille Cottin), speaks of ghosts in hushed tones and vengeful spirits of the children locked away, left to starve during the plague. But this, of course, is a Poirot mystery, and Reynolds’ séance ends with a body impaled on one of the statues in the vestibule.

A Haunting in Venice largely does away with the overstuffed, CGI bombast of Branagh’s earlier Poirot tales. John Paul Kelly’s production design and Sammy Sheldon’s costumes are immaculate. There are fewer A-listers in the cast (it does feature a reunion of Belfast stars Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill), and the performances lean occasionally into heightened dinner theatre, with lines delivered out and towards the audience. Yeoh is the exception and, unexpectedly, the contrast works – she’s the centre of every scene she’s in, that unplaceable quality of movie star charisma here given a paranormal sheen. Branagh’s Poirot continues to be a welcome presence: a slightly romanticised depiction of the detective, who’s self-aware enough, with his accent and his double-decker moustache, not to feel too pompous.

  • The Nun II review: Sequel could have been a M3GAN-esque thrill if not for its franchise commitments
  • Past Lives review: A gentle drama about first love and thirtysomething melancholy
  • Priscilla review, Venice Film Festival: Sofia Coppola drama will be very uncomfortable viewing for Elvis fans

A Haunting in Venice ’s conclusion, entirely different to Christie’s, is perhaps the least satisfying of the three films; the individual clues aren’t quite prominent enough to register, nor is the logic tight enough, to incite that satisfying “a-ha!” moment. But the director’s haunted spaces have a touch of 1961’s The Innocents to them, while his off-kilter camera allows the typical frights – disembodied lullabies, figures in reflections, mysterious patterns on walls – to feel strange and hallucinatory. I’m sure Branagh could happily keep making these Poirot mysteries, but, after A Haunting in Venice , he should instead consider giving Blumhouse a call.

Dir: Kenneth Branagh. Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Jude Hill, Michelle Yeoh. 12A, 103 minutes

‘A Haunting in Venice’ is in cinemas from 15 September

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Subscribe to Independent Premium to bookmark this article

Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Start your Independent Premium subscription today.

New to The Independent?

Or if you would prefer:

Want an ad-free experience?

Hi {{indy.fullName}}

  • My Independent Premium
  • Account details
  • Help centre

Reel Reviews - Official Site

In Theaters and Digital

A haunting in venice (2023) - movie review.

A Haunting in Venice)

Just in time for the All Hallows Eve season comes another in the recent series of Agatha Christie novel adaptations from director Kenneth Branagh . While his 2017 Murder on the Orient Express and last year’s Death on the Nile received lukewarm critical receptions and found limited success, Branagh hopes to turn that ship around with his latest adaptation.

A Haunting in Venice brings a refreshing twist to Christie 's quick-witted and charmingly self-deprecating Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, taking him into the realm of the supernatural. Screenwriter Michael Green seamlessly weaves together elements from Christie 's Hallowe'en Party with her supernatural short stories, resulting in an intriguing adaptation that transports the audience to an enchanting Venetian Palazzo.

The decision to change the setting from an English cottage to a Venetian Palazzo proves to be a good one as the grandeur and mystique of Venice provide a stunning backdrop for this ghostly tale. Haris Zambarloukos ’s cinematography captures the city's unique ambiance, making it an essential character in the story. The use of canals, masks, and candlelit corridors adds an eerie and ethereal quality that elevates the film's atmosphere.

At its core, A Haunting in Venice is a classic ghost story, unfolding over a single spine-tingling night in 1947 as we meet Detective Poirot ( Branagh ) now retired from police work, disillusioned by humanity, and having shut himself off from the rest of world.

A Haunting in Venice)

The tension builds steadily as Zambarloukos ’s camera explores the dark corners and weather-worn stairwells of the spooky palazzo, and director Kenneth Branagh expertly utilizes the Venitian Gothic architecture to enhance the eerie ambiance. We are drawn into the mystery, and as the supernatural events unfold, we can't help but find ourselves invested in the whodunnit story.

What truly sets this adaptation apart in the trilogy is the exploration of Hercule Poirot's character. Unlike the two previous films which primarily dealt with broad themes of revenge and greed, A Haunting in Venice delves into the supernatural, offering a fresh perspective on the famous detective. Branagh 's portrayal of Poirot is both vulnerable and resolute as he confronts forces beyond the scope of his usual deductive skills. This depth adds a layer of complexity to the character that Christie 's original story – as well as the two previous installments – did not provide.

The supporting cast also shines in their roles, with each character contributing to the overall mystery. Reilly delivers a captivating performance as the enigmatic Venetian hostess, while a talented ensemble cast of suspects featuring Jamie Dornan, Dylan Crobett-Bader, Jude Hill , and others, keeps you guessing until the very end.

The film maintains a slightly slower pace than the other Poirot adaptations which might spell a bit of doom for some viewers, but this deliberate pacing allows for more robust character building and atmospheric immersion. In addition, the haunting score complements the visuals beautifully, adding to the overall sense of unease.

With A Haunting in Venice, Branagh and Green succeed in breathing new life into Agatha Christie 's iconic detective. But is it enough to power this installment above the previous two and keep the series a strong recommend? Probably not.

However, their addition of the supernatural element provides an intriguing departure from this Poirot mystery series. The Venetian setting, the palpable sense of dread, and the reimagining of the Poirot character make the film a memorable addition to the Christie cinematic universe.

3/5 stars

A Haunting in Venice

MPAA Rating: PG-13. Runtime: 103 mins Director : Kenneth Branagh Writer: Michael Green Cast: Kenneth Branagh; Michelle Yeoh; Jamie Dornan Genre : Mystery | Crime Tagline: Memorable Movie Quote: "for once in your life, admit that you're up against something bigger than you" Theatrical Distributor: 20th Century Fox Official Site: Release Date: September 15, 2023 DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: Synopsis : In post-World War II Venice, Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once again uncover the killer.

A Haunting in Venice

New in Theaters/VOD

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024) - Movie Review

New on Home Video

Shaw Brothers Classics, Vol. 2: Man of Iron (1972)

  • New International Posters Improve THOR Image
  • New THOR Images Reveal Supporting Characters
  • See Idris Elba as Heimdall in THOR
  • God of Thunder Posters Hit the Web
  • Thor - Blu-ray Movie Review

tomato meter approved

Movie Trailers

  • Trailer Watch: WICKED (2024)
  • Trailer Watch - FROG AND TOAD
  • Trailer Watch: FIREBRAND
  • Trailer Watch: THE HANGMAN
  • Trailer Watch - END OF THE ROPE

BADass B-Movies

Movie Reviews

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024) - Movie Review

Morbidly Hollywood

  • Colorado Street Suicide Bridge
  • Death of a Princess - The Story of Grace Kelly's Fatal Car Crash
  • Joaquin Phoenix 911 Call - River Phoenix - Viper Room
  • Screen Legend Elizabeth Taylor Dies at 79
  • Suicide and the Hollywood Sign - The Girl Who Jumped from the Hollywood Sign
  • The Amityville Horror House
  • The Black Dahlia Murder - The Death of Elizabeth Short
  • The Death of Actress Jane Russell
  • The Death of Brandon Lee
  • The Death of Chris Farley
  • The Death of Dominique Dunne
  • The Death of George Reeves - the Original Superman


Haunting in Venice, A (United Kingdom/United States, 2023)

Haunting in Venice, A Poster

For his third Hercule Poirot movie, actor/director Kenneth Branagh has moved away from Dame Agatha Christie’s highest-profile novels to something a little more obscure – a 1969 book called Hallowe’en Party . Screenwriter Michael Green, who remained rigorously faithful to Christie’s texts for both Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile , decided to retain only fragments of the source material for A Haunting in Venice . The result is recognizably Christie-ian but has a somewhat different aesthetic. It’s a gothic production with the supernatural elements carrying it close to the line divides cozy mystery from ghost story horror. Opting for such a loose interpretation provides a boon to non-purist Christie fans – they no longer know whodunnit?

The movie takes place after World War II and contains numerous indications of how the conflict left its mark on the then-current generation of Europeans. By this time, a tired and disillusioned Hercule Poirot (Branagh) has retired to Venice, where he enjoys eating pastries and ignoring the numerous requests of the locals who want to hire him. His old friend, famed mystery authoress Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey playing a character co-inspired by Christie herself and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr. John Watson), tracks him down with an opportunity she is sure will pique his interest. A medium, Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), is said to communicate with the dead. After a Halloween party, Reynolds will seek to contact the spirit of the murdered daughter of former opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly). Ariadne has secured an invitation and invites Poirot to accompany her with the aim of debunking Reynolds. While in attendance, the detective quickly identifies fraudulent elements in the “show,” but aspects of the act elude him and he is forced into a familiar investigative role when a body is discovered and the police are not immediately available because a rainstorm has flooded the canals and isolated the palazzo in which the séance occurs.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

Although Branagh took pains in Death on the Nile to provide Poirot with a backstory, the detective is present in A Haunting in Venice in his primary role: to solve a murder. Along the way, he nearly becomes a victim himself. In terms of advancing Poirot’s character, little is attempted or achieved. We learn that he is seeking to put his career behind him, although Ariadne is certain that, provided with the right circumstances, he will once again find himself. She is proven to be correct.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

There’s no reason why A Haunting in Venice should be the last of Branagh’s forays into Christie’s compulsively page-turning world of murder. He has a history of delving deep and staying for a while and A Haunting in Venice displays little in the way of the creative degradation that often accompanies third installments. For those who enjoy their sleuthing on the big screen (even IMAX) with impressively conceived set pieces, evocative performances, gothic twists and turns, and a drizzling of ghostly apparitions, A Haunting in Venice delivers. And, although Branagh’s turn as the famous detective may be far from achieving parity with David Suchet (who played the role in 70 TV adaptations), he’s catching up to Peter Ustinov.

Comments Add Comment

  • Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
  • Blow the Man Down (2020)
  • Enola Holmes (2020)
  • (There are no more better movies of this genre)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
  • Hamlet (1996)
  • Dead Again (1991)
  • Swing Kids (1993)
  • Peter's Friends (1992)
  • Celebrity (1998)
  • Soul (2020)
  • Ponyo (2009)
  • Megamind (2010)
  • Mean Girls (2024) (2024)
  • Baby Mama (2008)
  • Invention of Lying, The (2009)
  • Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)
  • Me and Orson Welles (2009)
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
  • Sherlock Holmes (2009)
  • (There are no more worst movies of Kelly Reilly)

More From Forbes

When is ‘kingdom of the planet of the apes’ coming to streaming.

  • Share to Facebook
  • Share to Twitter
  • Share to Linkedin

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is now in theaters.

Wes Ball’s sci-fi sequel Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is now in theaters everywhere. Wondering when you can watch the film from home? Discover when Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes will likely arrive on streaming and digital platforms , below.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is the fourth film in the Planet of the Apes reboot franchise and a sequel to 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes . Directed by Wes Ball, the movie takes place three centuries after the events of the war and follows a young chimpanzee named Noa, who embarks on a quest with a human woman named Mae to determine the future for apes and humans alike. Owen Teague, Freya Allan, Kevin Durand, Peter Macon, William H. Macy round out the cast.

“Set several generations in the future following Caesar’s reign, in which apes are the dominant species living harmoniously and humans have been reduced to living in the shadows,” the official synopsis reads. “As a new tyrannical ape leader builds his empire, one young ape undertakes a harrowing journey that will cause him to question all that he has known about the past and to make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike.”

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes has had a strong debut at the box office, earning $22.2 million on its first day (including $6.6 million in previews). The movie is projected to earn between $52 and $56 million during its opening weekend, which is similar to the last three films in the reboot franchise, according to Variety .

So far, the sequel has earned positive reviews from critics, boasting an 80% critics score and 79% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes . Want to watch Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes at home? Here’s when and where the film will likely arrive on streaming.

When Does Bridgerton Season 3 Part 2 Come Out On Netflix See The Release Schedule

Samsung galaxy s24 series users really want to turn off one of its best features, a storm of 3 000 ukrainian bomblets blew up four russian jets at their base in crimea, how to watch kingdom of the planet of the apes.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes premiered in theaters in the U.S. on Friday, May 10, 2024. Currently, the only way to watch Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is in the movie theaters. Check your local cinemas for specific showtimes.

When Is Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes Streaming?

The streaming release date for Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes has yet to be announced. Because Walt Disney Studios owns 20th Century Studios, the movie will be available on Hulu (and Disney+ if you have the Disney bundle ). You will have to wait a few months before Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes arrives on Hulu.

In comparison, The Boogeyman premiered in theaters on June 2, 2023, and didn’t hit Hulu until four months later on October 5, 2023. A Haunting in Venice had a quicker turnaround, dropping on Hulu 45 days after it’s theatrical release. The film’s ongoing box office performance can affect its Hulu release schedule, so it’s still too soon to know.

The good news is that you can purchase or rent Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes sooner on digital video-on-demand platforms such as Prime Video and YouTube TV. Typically, it takes about 45 days after the film’s theatrical debut to be available on VOD.

Considering this timeframe, the earliest possible digital release for Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes could be around June 24, 2024. Stay tuned to know exactly when Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes will be streaming.

Monica Mercuri

  • Editorial Standards
  • Reprints & Permissions

Join The Conversation

One Community. Many Voices. Create a free account to share your thoughts. 

Forbes Community Guidelines

Our community is about connecting people through open and thoughtful conversations. We want our readers to share their views and exchange ideas and facts in a safe space.

In order to do so, please follow the posting rules in our site's  Terms of Service.   We've summarized some of those key rules below. Simply put, keep it civil.

Your post will be rejected if we notice that it seems to contain:

  • False or intentionally out-of-context or misleading information
  • Insults, profanity, incoherent, obscene or inflammatory language or threats of any kind
  • Attacks on the identity of other commenters or the article's author
  • Content that otherwise violates our site's  terms.

User accounts will be blocked if we notice or believe that users are engaged in:

  • Continuous attempts to re-post comments that have been previously moderated/rejected
  • Racist, sexist, homophobic or other discriminatory comments
  • Attempts or tactics that put the site security at risk
  • Actions that otherwise violate our site's  terms.

So, how can you be a power user?

  • Stay on topic and share your insights
  • Feel free to be clear and thoughtful to get your point across
  • ‘Like’ or ‘Dislike’ to show your point of view.
  • Protect your community.
  • Use the report tool to alert us when someone breaks the rules.

Thanks for reading our community guidelines. Please read the full list of posting rules found in our site's  Terms of Service.

an image, when javascript is unavailable

The Definitive Voice of Entertainment News

Subscribe for full access to The Hollywood Reporter

site categories

‘on becoming a guinea fowl’ review: a smart and unsettling zambian drama depicts a family’s reckoning.

In 'I Am Not a Witch' director Rungano Nyoni's second feature, produced by A24, the death of a problematic uncle instigates domestic turmoil.

By Lovia Gyarkye

Lovia Gyarkye

Arts & Culture Critic

  • Share this article on Facebook
  • Share this article on Twitter
  • Share this article on Flipboard
  • Share this article on Email
  • Show additional share options
  • Share this article on Linkedin
  • Share this article on Pinit
  • Share this article on Reddit
  • Share this article on Tumblr
  • Share this article on Whatsapp
  • Share this article on Print
  • Share this article on Comment

On Becoming a Guinea Fowl

The body lays prone in the middle of the road, an undisturbed mass straddling two lanes. Was the person simply a drunk compelled to admire the stars as the world spun? Or did they have an accident?

Related Stories

Diane kruger on david cronenberg's cannes film 'the shrouds': "it made me think about my mortality", matt dillon thriller 'haunted heart' from fernando trueba sells to signature for u.k. (exclusive), on becoming a guinea fowl.

That Nyoni’s second project, which premiered at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section, opens with death is unsurprising. The Zambian-Welsh director’s curiosities lean into tragedy. Within its shadowy expanse, she wrestles with and finds levity in the grim, the unsaid and the undesirable. In her debut feature, I Am Not a Witch , Nyoni exposed the hypocrisy of witch camps through a quiet but precocious child. With remarkable control and a heavy dose of absurdity, Nyoni revealed the misogyny embedded within, and the exploitative nature of, these ad hoc communities.

There’s an acidity to Nyoni’s filmmaking, an edge that complicates the humor. Laughing can seem gauche, even taboo. But it’s a tool. “The best way for me to vent this anger was through a cruel humour,” Nyoni said of I Am Not a Witch in a 2017 interview with The Independent , “it’s a Zambian sense of humour.” The director deploys a similar tactic in On Becoming a Guinea Fowl , which confidently swerves between different tones. She fills the film’s tragic frame with comic moments, hints of surrealism, stretches of mystery and pockets of rage. 

The apparition disappears, and Shula calls her father (Henry B.J. Phiri) to deliver the news. He offers some half-hearted advice and uses the opportunity to ask for money. Moments later, Shula’s cousin Nsansa (an excellent Elizabeth Chisela) happens upon the same road. She is drunk and acting kind of annoying. 

Uncle Fred’s death instigates an unsettling reckoning within Shula’s family and between them and the deceased man’s wife, Chichi (Norah Mwansa). The days-long Bemba funeral rites become sites of confrontations complete with accusations, confessions and resurfaced secrets. At the center of the melee in Shula’s family are Shula, Nsansa and their youngest cousin Bupe (Esther Singini), all of whom were assaulted by Uncle Fred as children. His death reopens their wounds and presents an opportunity for recourse. Whether or not they get to heal is a central thread in Nyoni’s film. Uncle Fred’s new family — a poor young woman and her brood of small children — present another issue. Shula’s mother and aunts dismiss Chichi as a grifter and accuse her of negligence. She didn’t cook for or take care of Fred, they say, and because of that he died. 

Amid the horrors of On Becoming a Guinea Fowl , Nyoni, who also wrote the screenplay, finds a lot of humor. When aimed at the culture of secrecy within Shula’s family, the cracks are acerbic and, at times, corrosive. But they can also be cathartic and self-protective, especially when exchanged between Shula and Nsansa. Like guinea fowls spotting a predator, the pair protect each other. Chardy, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the director herself, and Chisela have an understated chemistry that aids in building their characters’ relationship. Whereas Shula is a quiet observer who finds some comfort in silence, Nsansa launches into monologues and fires off jokes. In them, Nyoni offers divergent models of coping with traumatic experiences. 

Perhaps what’s most impressive about On Becoming a Guinea Fowl is Nyoni’s respect for subtext. Her film doesn’t aim to be a guide, a balm or an ode to forgiveness. The director rejects the ease of over-explanation and allure of an exclusively reverential tone. She reaches for honesty, and what she uncovers is at once disquieting and deeply absorbing. 

Full credits

Thr newsletters.

Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day

More from The Hollywood Reporter

Cannes hidden gem: a filmmaking prodigy offers a paean to the wonders of childhood in ‘my sunshine’, diane kruger on david cronenberg’s cannes film ‘the shrouds’: “it made me think about my mortality”, matt dillon thriller ‘haunted heart’ from fernando trueba sells to signature for u.k. (exclusive), cult filmmaker guy maddin finally makes it to cannes (with help from two oscar winners), cannes rising stars: ‘queens of drama’ actors louiza aura and gio ventura light up the screen, paul schrader in cannes: “every time i’m getting ready to die, i have a new idea”.


  • Share full article


Supported by

Critic’s Notebook

‘Taking Venice’: The Strange Story of the U.S. Government and a Painter

The documentary offers a glimpse of how the arts were treated very differently in midcentury America.

In a black-and-white archival image, a man in a light suit and dark tie stands in front of a busy painting.

By Alissa Wilkinson

Something about “Taking Venice,” Amei Wallach’s new documentary about the 1964 Venice Biennale (in theaters), feels almost like science fiction, or maybe fantasy. Imagine the U.S. government taking such a keen interest in the fine arts that there may or may not have been an attempt to rig a major international prize for an American artist. A painter, no less!

History buffs already know that during the Cold War, American intelligence agencies were heavily involved in literature, music and the fine arts, seeing them as a way to export soft power around the world and prove U.S. dominance over the Soviet Union. “Taking Venice” tells one slice of that story: a long-rumored conspiracy between the State Department and art dealers to ensure that the young painter Robert Rauschenberg would win the grand prize at the event sometimes called the “Olympics of art” — and a “fiesta of nationalism.”

So … did they conspire? “Taking Venice” does not exactly answer that question, though various people who were involved give their versions of the story. But that question is far from what makes the documentary so interesting. Instead, it’s a tale of Americans crashing what had been a European party in a moment when American optimism was at its height. Artists like Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, Frank Stella, John Chamberlain and Jasper Johns were making work that exploded ideas about what a painting should be and do. As one expert notes, they dared to make art that suggested the present was important, not just the past.

And they had support from their government in ways that were weird and complicated. In a 1963 speech a month before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy declared , “I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.” Then again, as several people note, the freedom of expression that American art was supposed to illustrate on the world stage — often without the artists’ full realization of the government’s involvement — was subject to its own kind of censorship. Government entities like the House Un-American Activities Committee and intelligence agencies decided who was allowed to represent the country and whose voices were unwelcome.

Yet it’s still fascinating to imagine a time, not all that long ago, in which painting, sculpture, jazz, literature and more were considered keys to the exporting of American influence around the world. It’s a cultural attitude that’s shifted tremendously in the years since, at least on the broader scale, away from seeing art as embodying a culture’s hopes and dreams and toward something more crass.

But with this year’s edition of the Biennale underway, the question of what it means to be an American artist (or an artist from any country) is still one worth wrestling with, and something “Taking Venice” explores, too. “Art is not only about art,” Christine Macel, the curator of the 2017 Biennale, says at the start of the film. “It’s about power and politics. When you have the power, you show it through art.”

Bonus Review: ‘Film Geek’

Richard Shepard, the director of the black comedies “Dom Hemingway” and “The Matador,” is a lifelong cinephile with a voracious appetite for movies. “Film Geek” (in theaters), a feature-length video essay composed primarily of footage of films that he saw growing up in the 1970s in New York City, delves deep into his obsession. In a voice-over, he recounts his childhood, when he was “addicted to movies, to watching them, to making them.” He is enthusiastic, and the movie aspires to make that enthusiasm infectious. I appreciate Shepard’s affection: I also grew up loving movies, and I found his wistful reminiscences of being awed by “Jaws” and “Star Wars” relatable. But Shepard’s level of self-regard can be stultifying. For minutes at a time, he simply rattles off the titles of various movies that he saw as a child. “Film Geek” has been likened to Thom Andersen’s great documentary from 2003, “Los Angeles Plays Itself,” and on the level of montage, they share a superficial resemblance: Both are brisk and well edited. But “Los Angeles Plays Itself” is also a thoughtful and incisive work of film criticism, whereas Shepard describes movies in clichés. — CALUM MARSH

Alissa Wilkinson is a Times movie critic. She’s been writing about movies since 2005. More about Alissa Wilkinson

Inside the Venice Biennale

The 2024 venice biennale features work by more than 330 participating artists from some 90 countries scattered throughout the city..

A Case for Returning Looted Artifacts:  For years, activists and politicians have led discussions about whether disputed museum objects  should go back to their countries of origin. At this year’s Biennale, artists are entering the fray.

Raising a New Flag:  Dread Scott’s unabashedly activist art once led to a Supreme Court ruling on free speech. Now during the Biennale, he tackles racist immigration policies .

Balance on the U.S.-Mexico Border:  In a show this spring and summer between two museums on either side of the border , artists tell fresh stories about a contentious region.

Archie Moore Wins Top Prize:  The Indigenous Australian artist won the Golden Lion  for his installation, “kith and kin,” which draws on what he says is 65,000 years of family history.

A Work’s Context:  Rather than having a solo retrospective, Julie Mehretu chose  to have a show in Venice that includes works by her artist friends.

movie reviews for a haunting in venice

'The Girl With the Needle' Review: Magnus von Horn and Vic Carmen Sonne Cast a Shattering Spell in Haunting Historical Drama

F rom the opening moments of the delicately haunting film "The Girl With the Needle" (titled "PIGEN MED NÃ...LEN" in Danish), nightmarishly beautiful black-and-white visuals are made even more macabrely mesmerizing by a stellar score. Telling a tragic story of a woman trying to survive the casual cruelty of a society living in the shadow of World War 1, it is a subtly devastating experience that teeters on the edge of full-blown horror before diving all the way in. As you find yourself immersed in the film's quiet terrors, it emerges as an evocative and unsparing work, facing down a gathering darkness that has the power to swallow you whole. Once it does, it begins to descend even further.

Premiering Wednesday evening in competition at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival , the latest film from director Magnus von Horn is his first to take us back in time. His past features have always been about more modern experiences, but this taps into something more terrifyingly timeless. In a screenplay he co-wrote with Line Langebek Knudsen, we get taken into the tumultuous life of Karoline as she finds herself trying to keep her head above water. 

Perfectly played with a visceral poise by Vic Carmen Sonne, she just can't seem to catch a break. In the very first scene, she is getting evicted by her landlord who, despite hemming and hawing about how kind he is, is still throwing her out on the street. On top of that, her husband has gone missing while serving in the war. When she forms a relationship with her supposedly loving boss and becomes pregnant with his child, he too abandons her under familial pressure. 

This is then all changed when she meets the mysterious Dagmar, who runs a secretive adoption agency out of her candy store meant to ostensibly help women with no options. Played by a terrific Trine Dyrholm, she is a no-nonsense operator who still manages to win Karoline over. Though their relationship is initially transactional, it soon becomes something more thorny. Neither is perfect, but they seem to have found some shared understanding about the way the world functions. There is little salvation in life, but they may hope to maybe find it in the other.  

Very quickly, the duo's lives become sewn together. Karolina steps into the role of both wet nurse and companion to Dagmar, nursing the babies that are left with them one day while going to the movies on another. It soon becomes clear that neither really has anyone else to turn to for help. Karoline does have a past that comes knocking, but Dagmar remains more impenetrable. She has a young girl she takes care of, but all else is hazy. When it gets brought into focus for Karoline, everything she has put her faith in may soon get washed away and drown her with it. 

Details on this revelation are best left vague to preserve the viewing experience, but there is a history the film is drawing from which may get picked up by those with knowledge of certain names. However, rather than being some sort of dreary historical drama, "The Girl With the Needle' is a formally fascinating film with bold visuals and score worth praising.

Cinematographer Michal Dymek, who previously worked on the spectacular upcoming film " A Real Pain ," makes every frame into one that feels rich and alive even as death looms. The way even the most basic of settings, be they a confined apartment or a sinister stage performance in a tent, get captured here is nothing short of stunning. You can feel every facet of the world being built, ensuring everything proves suffocating even as it is beautiful to behold. When it dances away into the more ephemeral via a series of recurring shots of shifting faces, Dymek doesn't miss a beat and, with great editing by Agnieszka Glinska, makes it all astounding. 

This is then made even more memorable by a propulsive and petrifying score by composer Frederikke Hoffmeier that splits apart everything on screen whenever it rises up. It is a score that demands you notice it and earns every moment, making the visuals feel like they're being conjured up from the depths of somewhere even deeper in the psyche. Much like how Mica Levi has become known for crafting compositions that instill every frame with something distinctly and ethereally frightening, this is a score that feels like something entirely its own. Hoffmeier ensures everything is that much more haunting as every note carries spine-chilling resonance. 

When all of this then comes back to Dyrholm and Sonne, both are operating on just the right wavelength to ground these technical achievements in the emotions of their characters. Though it almost feels as though there could have been more time spent at the end letting things linger, the final moments we spend with them speaks volumes. Each embodies their characters fully and completely even as the film can hold them at a bit of a distance from us at key junctures. 

Much of this is necessary, as the key revelation can only land if we too are being kept in the dark, and the duo doesn't let it stop them from getting us right into the very heart of each of them. When all is finally laid bare, the immense agony is grounded in two lost people in a life that itself feels like it is falling out of balance. They may find each other, but, as was inevitable in a world that had come to be defined by such suffering, the loss that follows is even greater. 

The post 'The Girl With the Needle' Review: Magnus von Horn and Vic Carmen Sonne Cast a Shattering Spell in Haunting Historical Drama appeared first on TheWrap .



  1. A Haunting in Venice (2023) by Kenneth Branagh

    movie reviews for a haunting in venice


    movie reviews for a haunting in venice

  3. A Haunting in Venice teaser: Kenneth Branagh can't hide from ghosts

    movie reviews for a haunting in venice

  4. A Haunting in Venice movie review (2023)

    movie reviews for a haunting in venice

  5. A Haunting in Venice: Third Agatha Christie Film Unveils Cast

    movie reviews for a haunting in venice

  6. Everything You Need to Know About A Haunting in Venice Movie (2023)

    movie reviews for a haunting in venice


  1. A Haunting in Venice Movie Review

  2. A Haunting In Venice


  1. A Haunting in Venice movie review (2023)

    "A Haunting in Venice" is the best of Kenneth Branagh's Hercule Poirot movies. It's also one of Branagh's best, period, thanks to the way Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green dismantle and reinvent the source material (Agatha Christie's Hallowe'en Party) to create a relentlessly clever, visually dense "old" movie that uses the latest technology.

  2. A Haunting in Venice

    76% Tomatometer 292 Reviews 77% Audience Score 1,000+ Verified Ratings "A Haunting in Venice" is set in eerie, post-World War II Venice on All Hallows' Eve and is a terrifying mystery featuring ...

  3. 'A Haunting in Venice' Review: A Whodunit With a Splash of Horror

    Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot in "A Haunting in Venice," his third adaptation of an Agatha Christie story. Disney/20th Century Studios. By Jason Zinoman. Published Sept. 13, 2023 Updated ...

  4. 'A Haunting in Venice' review: This Agatha Christie murder ...

    Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection. You can always count on Agatha Christie for a surprise, and the big twist in A Haunting in Venice is that it's actually a pretty terrific movie. I say ...

  5. A Haunting in Venice

    A Haunting in Venice isn't quite the best of Kenneth Branagh's Hercule Poirot films, but it's still an inspired effort. Full Review | Original Score: B | Oct 25, 2023. Michael Calleri Niagara ...

  6. A Haunting in Venice review

    A Haunting in Venice is freely adapted from a late Agatha Christie novel, Hallowe'en Party, from 1969, and does at least look better than its predecessor, which used cheesy digital effects and ...

  7. 'A Haunting in Venice' Review: Kenneth Branagh's New Agatha Christie

    September 9, 2023 4:00pm. Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot in 'A Haunting in Venice' Courtesy of 20th Century Studios. Like Agatha Christie herself, Kenneth Branagh found a reliable formula for ...

  8. 'A Haunting in Venice' review: Branagh's latest goes gothic

    By Justin Chang Film Critic. Sept. 14, 2023 12:25 PM PT. Early on in Kenneth Branagh's delectably creepy "A Haunting in Venice," as gondolas cut through waterways and the sun sets on one of ...

  9. A Haunting in Venice (2023)

    A Haunting in Venice: Directed by Kenneth Branagh. With Kenneth Branagh, Dylan Corbett-Bader, Amir El-Masry, Riccardo Scamarcio. In post-World War II Venice, Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once again uncover the killer.

  10. 'A Haunting In Venice' Review: Kenneth Branagh Brings a Supernatural

    'A Haunting In Venice' Review: Kenneth Branagh Brings a Supernatural Dimension to His Hercule Poirot Series Reviewed at El Capitan Theater, Sept. 6, 2023. MPA Rating: PG-13.

  11. A Haunting in Venice review: Kenneth Branagh's best Poirot film yet

    A Haunting in Venice. review: Kenneth Branagh scares up his best Poirot film yet. Branagh portrays Agatha Christie's favorite detective for the third time in this supernatural thriller. While ...

  12. A Haunting in Venice

    1 h 43 m. Summary In post-World War II Venice, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), now retired and living in self-imposed exile, reluctantly attends a seance at a decaying, haunted palazzo. When one of the guests is murdered, the former detective is thrust into a sinister world of shadows and secrets. Based upon the novel Hallowe'en Party by ...

  13. A Haunting In Venice Review

    A Haunting In Venice Review. Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) has retired to Venice. His old friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) asks him to investigate charismatic psychic Mrs Reynolds (Michelle ...

  14. 'A Haunting in Venice' Review: Kenneth Branagh's New Agatha Christie

    So Branagh got creative for his third film, taking Christie's Gothic-tinged mystery "Hallowe'en Party" and moving the setting from England to Italy to make " A Haunting in Venice .". A ...

  15. "A Haunting in Venice" and "El Conde," Reviewed

    Anthony Lane reviews "A Haunting in Venice," the third of Kenneth Branagh's star-studded Hercule Poirot movies, loosely adapted from Agatha Christie, and Pablo Larraín's "El Conde," a ...

  16. Review

    "A Haunting in Venice" opens to moody shots of St. Mark's Square in the titular city, set to strains of Hildur Gudnadottir's elegiac score; set in 1947, and moved to Italy from the English ...

  17. A Haunting in Venice Movie Review

    It's less exotic and edgier, more haunted; it's a tense, thoughtful, and satisfying mystery. Murder on the Orient Express had a fluid use of space aboard a cramped, moving train, while Death on the Nile used bright, open spaces. A Haunting in Venice, which is mainly set indoors, during a storm, and in the late hours of Halloween night -- when ...

  18. A Haunting in Venice review: Poirot meets the supernatural in Kenneth

    A Haunting in Venice largely does away with the overstuffed, CGI bombast of Branagh's earlier Poirot tales. John Paul Kelly's production design and Sammy Sheldon's costumes are immaculate.

  19. 'A Haunting in Venice' Review: Poirot Sits In on a Séance

    Kenneth Branagh as the mustachioed Belgian sleuth Photo: 20th Century Studios. "A Haunting in Venice" takes place in the aftermath of a shameful event: During a plague, children were locked ...

  20. A Haunting in Venice (2023)

    A Haunting in Venice brings a refreshing twist to Christie's quick-witted and charmingly self-deprecating Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, taking him into the realm of the supernatural. Screenwriter Michael Green seamlessly weaves together elements from Christie 's Hallowe'en Party with her supernatural short stories, resulting in an ...

  21. A Haunting in Venice

    A Haunting in Venice is a 2023 American mystery film produced and directed by Kenneth Branagh from a screenplay by Michael Green, loosely based on the 1969 Agatha Christie novel Hallowe'en Party.It serves as a sequel to Death on the Nile (2022) and is the third film in which Branagh reprises his role as the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The ensemble cast includes Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin ...

  22. Haunting in Venice, A

    Although Branagh took pains in Death on the Nile to provide Poirot with a backstory, the detective is present in A Haunting in Venice in his primary role: to solve a murder. Along the way, he nearly becomes a victim himself. In terms of advancing Poirot's character, little is attempted or achieved. We learn that he is seeking to put his ...

  23. A Haunting In Venice

    Death comes for everyone.Watch the brand-new trailer for #AHauntingInVenice, only in theaters September 15.The unsettling supernatural thriller based upon th...

  24. When Is 'Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes' Coming To Streaming?

    The movie is projected to earn between $52 and $56 million during its opening ... the sequel has earned positive reviews from critics, ... A Haunting in Venice had a quicker turnaround, dropping ...

  25. 10 Amazing Detective Movies That Are Based on Books

    That is, until the release of A Haunting in Venice, loosely based on Christie's 1969 novel Hallowe'en Party. On Halloween night, Poirot is invited to a séance by crime writer Ariadne Oliver, who ...

  26. 'On Becoming a Guinea Fowl' Review: Rungano Nyoni's Zambian Drama

    Amid the horrors of On Becoming a Guinea Fowl, Nyoni, who also wrote the screenplay, finds a lot of humor. When aimed at the culture of secrecy within Shula's family, the cracks are acerbic and ...

  27. 'Meeting With Pol Pot' Review: Reality Unravels in Rithy Panh's ...

    A narrow 4:3 frame introduces the movie's analogues for Becker, Caldwell, and Dudman, who make their approach by air in the hopes of exposing the opaque Cambodian regime.

  28. 'Taking Venice' Offers a Glimpse at Conspiracy Theories Around the 1964

    Something about "Taking Venice," Amei Wallach's new documentary about the 1964 Venice Biennale (in theaters), feels almost like science fiction, or maybe fantasy. Imagine the U.S. government ...

  29. 'The Girl With the Needle' Review: Magnus von Horn and Vic Carmen ...

    F rom the opening moments of the delicately haunting film "The Girl With the Needle" (titled "PIGEN MED NÃ...LEN" in Danish), nightmarishly beautiful black-and-white visuals are made even more ...