Street Date 11/28/23;
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.
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.