Over the last few years, we have seen a rise in what has to be my favourite genre of film. The ever-classic Murder Mystery is more widely known as a “Whodunnit.” This has led to a few things: a handful of series that need to set the bar higher than their predecessors. And just like Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery had to elevate itself above Knives Out, A Haunting In Venice has to pull fewer punches than its predecessors, A Murder On The Orient Express and Death On The Nile. But, eventually, they need to all circle around and realize that the main crux of the story and its red herrings are why fans of a fantastic Whodunnit will sing its praises for all eternity.
A Haunting In Venice follows a now-retired Hercule Poirot after Death On The Nile, enjoying his peace and quiet in Venice, secluded from everyone, even with a constant lineup around the corner of people who have been recently slighted and believe there is a case for him to solve. Nonetheless, Poirot could not be bothered as he continues on his daily activities of sitting at his rooftop office enjoying two daily deliveries from the pastry man.
Once his longtime friend, played by the always-charismatic Tina Fey, approaches him not to solve a case per se but to help him debunk a medium during a séance at a decaying and supposedly haunted palazzo. After the séance, a surprising murder takes place, and it reawakens the inner detective in Poirot as he must deduce who has done it before they claim any more lives.
Almost immediately, the cinematography in A Haunting In Venice was an absolute standout, as from the get-go, there were so many unique, fun, and exciting ways the scenes were set up. For example, as Poirot and his bodyguard are swiftly walking through the streets away from the line-up of potential cases, one gets too close as his bodyguard throws him off the walking bridge into the canal. The way it’s widened out while not being the centre of attention at the moment gives it this almost playful act happening just off-centre.
“…the cinematography in A Haunting In Venice was an absolute standout, as from the get-go, there were so many unique, fun, and exciting ways the scenes were set up.”
The other specific shot that sticks in mind is during a particular scene. The camera is aimed at Poirot in, almost, a 2nd person lens. Giving us the viewpoint of a child following him, walking backward, and looking up at him. It was incredibly unique and such an interesting way of showing us not the action but the emotion of Poirot while he deals with a mental spiral as things begin to fall into place.
The performances across the board were incredible in A Haunting In Venice. Particularly Kenneth Branagh as the titular Hercule Poirot, Tina Fey as the long-time friend of Poirot Ariadne Oliver, and Jude Hill as Leopold Ferrier, the son of a doctor wrapped up in the séance. The casting choice all around made sure each one of the characters in our murder mystery had a chance to shine, but the above-mentioned really sang. Notably, Jude Hill managed to capture such emotion and child-like wonderment all at the same time.
Now, the juiciest part of any murder mystery is how well the setup and execution of the grand reveal. Overall, the red herrings were decently delivered, with the big reveal itself being in plain sight was and is always a nice touch. I was left guessing for the majority of the runtime, but ultimately, A Haunting in Venice lacked a little with its overall mystery and effectiveness of the red herrings.
“The performances across the board were incredible in A Haunting In Venice.”
Many of the characters just didn’t have a motive to want to result in murder. That is the most significant part of these Whodunnits is that you need to really buy into each person on the scene, which could have been pushed to the limit, and we just don’t get that here, leaving the outcome pretty predictable by the second half.
My other big issue with A Haunting In Venice is the whole theme of a haunting. There are some supernatural elements to the film, and unfortunately, that mostly plays into the odd jump-scare. It just felt like a cheap trick, which kind of plays into the debunking of the Medium as just trying to get a rise out of the audience. It is very unfortunate because they could have played around more with the themes of hauntings, and it could have been effective. But in the end, it mostly felt like an afterthought and a way to try and elevate the Whodunnit genre into something it clearly isn’t.
Overall, A Haunting In Venice was generally a fun time. I thoroughly enjoyed myself with some fantastic performances and a stronger first half. When it started to reveal itself, those feelings slowly fell away. With a resolved supernatural storyline that felt complete until the very end, where it teetered on opening back up again, it partially felt half concocted.