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Haunting in Venice, A


Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, Jamie Dornan, Michelle Yeoh, Kelly Reilly, Jude Hill, Emma Laird

Director: Kenneth Branagh

A curiously flat and frankly rather dull adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel Hallowe'en Party, in which the characters, even Branagh's impressively moustachioed Hercule Poirot, stubbornly refuse to come to life. Despite lots of sudden loud noises on the soundtrack designed to make you jump, genuine thrills are in short supply here.

It's 1947, and Poirot, the infallible Belgian detective, now retired and living in Venice, is summoned by novelist friend Ariadne Oliver (Fey, straitjacketed into the role and thus less sparky than usual) to a seance at a supposedly haunted palazzo right on a Venetian canal.

Legend has it that tenants in the palazzo are doomed to mysterious deaths, and that the house itself is beset by the ghosts of children abandoned by doctors and nurses during a virulent plague. The most recent victim is the daughter of the current owner, a girl tormented by nightmares, who is supposed to have flung herself into the canal below.

Poirot soon exposes the medium (Yeoh) as a fake, but new deaths make it clear that a killer is loose among the assembled company.

As a mood piece this has its moments, but the characters' backstories, even though they're barely there, prove something of an irrelevance. Writer Michael Green, however, does deserve kudos for handing Poirot the line 'You wake the bear from his sleep, you cannot cry when he tangos.'

Yeoh and Hill, the boy from Belfast, are the pick of a floundering cast.

David Quinlan

UK/USA/Italy 2023. UK Distributor: Disney (20th-Century Studios). Colour (unspecified).
102 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 Sep 2023