A Haunting in Venice

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 11/28/23;
20th Century;
Mystery;
Box Office $42.45 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some strong violence, disturbing images and thematic elements.
Stars Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, Kelly Reilly, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Dornan, Kyle Allen, Jude Hill, Camille Cottin, Ali Khan, Emma Laird, Riccardo Scamarcio.

Director Kenneth Branagh’s third film based on Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot detective stories blends a bit of horror into the proceedings for an effective Halloween-themed mystery.

The sequel to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express and 2022’s Death on the Nile is loosely based on Christie’s 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party, retaining elements of the basic premise and some of the character names, but relocating the story from England to Italy and reworking much of the plot.  

The film takes place in 1947, 10 years following the events of Nile. Jaded from the events of that film, Poirot (Branagh) has sheltered himself away from the world in Venice, but is coaxed out of retirement by his old friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), an author who is basically a stand-in for Christie herself.

Oliver wants help in exposing as a fraud a psychic named Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) who will be conducting a séance at a Halloween party being held at a former orphanage that is rumored to be haunted. The palazzo is now owned by a former opera singer (Kelly Reilly) who has hired Reynolds to contact her daughter, who allegedly committed suicide a year earlier.

After an unnerving sequence of apparent demonic possession, Reynolds begins channeling the daughter’s spirit, claiming she was murdered. With almost everyone in the room on the verge of believing in the supernatural, Poirot vows to uncover Reynolds’ methods. In short order, however, an attempt is made on Poirot’s life, while Reynolds is thrown off a balcony and impaled on a statue.

With a storm preventing the police from arriving until morning, the elements are now in place for a classic murder mystery, as an annoyed Poirot locks everyone inside and vows to solve the case. This in turn rouses the amusement of Ariadne, who is portrayed by Fey as the perfect sassy foil to Poirot’s stuffiness.

As usual, almost everyone involved has a labyrinth of secrets to navigate for Poirot to reach the truth, though his efforts are seemingly complicated by the unsettled spirits of this most creepy of locales.

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The primary extra offered on the Blu-ray and digital versions of A Haunting in Venice is a 26-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that while focusing on the production of the third film also looks back at the first two.

Also included are 11 short but superfluous deleted scenes that run a total of about nine minutes.

‘A Haunting in Venice’ Gets Digital, Hulu Release Oct. 31, With DVD, Blu-ray Coming Nov. 28

A Haunting in Venice, the thriller based on the 1969 Agatha Christie Hallowe’en Party novel, will be released Oct. 31 through digital retailers for purchase only, as well as on the Hulu streaming service. 

A Blu-ray Disc and DVD release from Walt Disney Home Entertainment follows on Nov. 28. The film also will be available to rent digitally on that date.

A Haunting in Venice is set in eerie, post-World War II Venice on All Hallows’ Eve and features the return of the celebrated sleuth, Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh, who also produced and directed. Now retired and living in self-imposed exile, Poirot reluctantly attends a séance at a decaying, haunted palazzo. When one of the guests is murdered, the detective is thrust into a sinister world of shadows and secrets.

The film has grossed more than $40 million in North American theaters, with total global box office earnings of $112 million.

A Haunting in Venice is the third film in Branagh’s “Poirot” trilogy, which also includes 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express and 2022’s Death on the Nile. Branagh stars alongside an ensemble cast that includes Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Jude Hill, Ali Khan, Emma Laird, Kelly Reilly, Riccardo Scamarcio and Michelle Yeoh.

The two other films also will be available to stream on Hulu. All three films will be available for purchase as a bundle through digital retailers, including Prime Video and Vudu.

Disney Sets Home Release Dates for ‘Death on the Nile’

Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution has set home release dates for Death on the Nile, director Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s acclaimed 1937 novel.

The murder mystery, which grossed a disappointing $41 million in North American theaters, will be released through digital retailers on March 29, the same day it begins streaming on HBO Max and Hulu, followed by an April 5 release on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray Disc and DVD.

Death on the Nile has been praised by critics for its cinematography,  storytelling and ensemble cast that includes Branagh as Hercule Poirot, Tom Bateman as Bouc, Annette Bening as Euphemia Bouc, Russell Brand as Dr. Bessner, Ali Fazal as Andrew Katchadourian, Dawn French as Bowers, Gal Gadot as Linnet Ridgeway Doyle, Armie Hammer as Simon Doyle, Rose Leslie as Louise Bourget, Emma Mackey as Jacqueline de Bellefort, Sophie Okonedo as Salome Otterbourne, Jennifer Saunders as Marie Van Schuyler and Letitia Wright as Rosalie Otterbourne.

In the film, Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot’s spectacular Egyptian vacation aboard a river boat becomes a terrifying search for a murderer after a picture-perfect couple’s honeymoon is cut tragically short. 

Bonus content on the home editions include four documentaries, including one on the making of the film, and deleted scenes, although Disney cautions bonus features will vary by product and retailer.