Murder in Venice review: horror among the canals

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Murder in Venice, a horror film disguised as a detective story from times gone by, has fully convinced us: here is our review of Kenneth Branagh’s film

TITLE ORIGINAL: A Haunting in Venice. TYPE: giallo, horror. NATION: United States. REGIA: Kenneth Branagh. CAST: Kenneth Branagh, Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Jude Hill, Ali Khan, Emma Laird, Kelly Reilly, Riccardo Scamarcio, Michelle Yeoh, Amir El-Masry. DURATION: approximately 103 minutes. DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Studios, Walt Disney Company. EXIT: 14/09/2023.

Against the backdrop of a Venice as fascinating as it is ghostly, Kenneth Branagh stages his adaptation of Poirot and the Massacre of the Innocents by Agatha Christie, portraying the investigator in a different light from the usual and giving the mystery a strongly horror vein.

Having reached the third chapter of the saga on the detective Hercule Poirot, with Murder in Venice the director Kenneth Branagh distances himself considerably from the source novel, changing the setting, title and partly also the setting and pathos of the workeffectively creating a claustrophobic horror that could set the tone for many films currently available.

Plot and trailer | Murder in Venice review

Some time after the murder of passion in Murder on the Nile, Poirot decides to retire to Venice. These are the post-war years, and precisely we are in 1947. The detective, a bit like what happened to Benoit Blanc in Glass Onion, has decided to enjoy life away from murders, so much so that to escape the crowds of people who chase him through the channels every day to submit a new case to him, he has hired a bodyguard, the former policeman Vitale Portfoglio (Riccardo Scamarcio). But when longtime friend and world-famous crime writer Ariadne Oliver arrives in town (Tina Fey), Poirot finds himself entangled in a situation on the edge of reality.

Invited to a Halloween party, in a building apparently haunted by ghosts, the mustachioed detective is forced to attend a séance, held by the medium Mrs. Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh). The deceased Alicia Drake (Esther Rae Tillotson), daughter of the owner of the ancient palace in which they are located, Rowena (Kelly Reilly), who committed suicide following visions of the ghosts of children wandering within the walls. Poirot, despite having lost his faith, is ready to believe that if something exists beyond death and if life, as we know it, conceals supernatural presences and connections with the afterlife.

Murder in Venice review: horror among the canals

Kenneth Branagh and identifying with Poirot | Murder in Venice review

As mentioned, unlike its predecessors, the film does not completely adhere to the plot of the book, of which however the key points remain: the story also takes place here on Halloween night and the protagonist is always the death of some unfortunate person, for a mystery story with supernatural tinges. The faithful once again write the script Michael Greenwith music by Hildur Guonadottir. However it is Kenneth Branagh the protagonist in every sense.

The Irish actor is increasingly identifying with (and we can assume is amused by) the iconic figure of the detective. For his third work with Agatha Christie, he draws from pre-existing material but shuffles the cards on the table, defining a new film, perhaps even more daring as well as ambitious, in which he wants to confirm that he is a virtuoso, while remaining firmly linked, at least in the investigative scheme, to Christie’s crime novel. In fact, alongside the detection of Assassination in Venice, a second narrative line runs: supernatural horror. A story of ghosts, as well as murders, that lurk inside a palace in the picturesque Venice of the post-war years, in which legends and superstitions live. The director’s intent is clear right from the start: everything is built according to the logic of fear, to imbue the narrative with frightening nuances. We cannot therefore help but highlight his skill behind the camera.

Murder in Venice review: horror among the canals

A full-blown horror | Murder in Venice review

Kenneth Branagh deploys all the tools most congenial to the register of the work: there are the anamorphic lenses that alter the space, ghostly and eerie, the snorricam is used to highlight the destabilization of his character and, finally, there are the oblique shots, which among other things open the film and become its constant. Every directorial choice, even simple shots, aims to promote the sense of distortion and danger and give the environment a funereal and distressing atmosphere, certainly emphasized by a scenography with attention to detail, down to the smallest details. In addition to also portraying, on a dramatic and personal level, Poirot’s disorder and his feeling lost, hesitant and confused.

However, if on an aesthetic level Murder in Venice is spot on, the same cannot be said for the construction of the plot and the mystery being investigated, which is less compelling than the previous ones. There is a lack of clever misdirections and twists. Every event seems to want to be discovered quickly, every solution arrives in a flash, there is no pleasure in reasoning or suspension, as in Murder on the Orient Express and Murder on the Nile. The final dramatic climax lacks real tension. Add to this that just over an hour and a half of screening seems short for a film of this kind.

Murder in Venice review: horror among the canals


In conclusion of this review, we can say that Murder in Venice is an ambitious film, which however in an attempt to unite two genres it succeeds more in its aim of giving a horror vein to the detective story. However, it is an excellent film, which may not be memorable but which reinvigorates this somewhat bare cinematic autumn.

Points in favor

  • Excellent horror direction
  • Good cast and performances
  • The atmosphere of Venice makes everything more mystical

Points against

  • The plot and investigation are left behind

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