Death in the Music Room

A Haunting in Venice

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Dornan, Riccardo Scarmarcio, Camille Cottin, Jude Hill, Kyle Allen, Emma Laird, Ali Khan 

Running Time: 1 hour 43 minutes

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Based upon the bestselling Agatha Christie novel Hallowe’en Party published in 1969, screenwriter Michael Green adapts the murder mystery for director Kenneth Branagh’s new film A Haunting In Venice starring an ensemble cast including Belfast stars Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill plus Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh (Everything, Everywhere all at Once).

So let’s set the scene: a séance on Halloween at a haunted palace in Venice in 1947. What could possibly go wrong?

Famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is lured to another complex murder mystery by the ambitious writer Ariadne Oliver superbly played with dashes of wit by comedy star Tina Fey to a séance hosted by the doomed Opera star Rowena Drake expertly played with a crisp British accent by Yellowstone star Kelly Reilly (Pride and Prejudice, Flight).

The Femme Fatale Rowena Drake has a host of eclectic guests over for the séance in a bid to bring back the spirit of her dead daughter who drowned in the Venetian canal a year ago. Poirot suspects a far more scientific yet murky plot is afoot despite various inexplicable terrifying occurrences and sightings of potential ghosts.

When the psychic Mrs Reynolds appears with a cloak and a Venetian mask, trouble starts brewing as she expertly assembles her guests in a bid to conjure up the spirit of Rowena’s dead child, but tragedy strikes when not one but two murders occur around midnight on Halloween.

Unlike the dazzling Death on the Nile, Branagh choses a more atmospheric look for A Haunting in Venice taking all his visual clues from classic film noir, with dark shots of the floating city and all the allusions to what Venice as a city represents cinematically: forbidden desire, unfathomable motives and beauty which is deceptive and dangerous.

Branagh keeps the action tight and his ensemble cast including Camille Cottin as Oleg Seminoff and Italian star Riccardo Scamarcio (John Wick 3, Burnt) as corrupt policeman Vitale Portfoglio, all perform perfectly in their roles.

A Haunting in Venice is an extremely dark film, making the entire narrative very murky and difficult to distinguish much like the real motives of the murderer. Branagh possibly had a constrained budget compared to the lavish two previous films: Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile as most of this film takes place in the haunted mansion.

Claustrophobic and scary, A Haunting in Venice is tonally brilliant and fortunately saved by some intelligent screen chemistry between Tina Fey and Kenneth Branagh and will appeal to all those that love a stylish murder mystery. Audiences should look out for an entirely creepy performance by Jude Hill as a precocious boy Leopold Ferrier reading the American Gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe while the other kids are trick or treating.

With richly dark colours like black, red and grey, A Haunting in Venice is pure film noir with a creepy twist and gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.  

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