Except For The Moustache   

A Haunting In Venice
Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Kyle Allen, Camille Collin, Jamie Dorman, Tina Fey, Ali Khan, Kelly Reilly and Michelle Yeoh
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Scriptwriter: Michael Green from “Halloween Party” by Agatha Christie   
Composer: Hildur Guonadottir
Cinematographer: Haris Zambarloukos   
Agatha Christie Limited/20th Century Studios
Rating: PG 13   Running Length: 105 Minutes

Several years ago, I saw a Hercule Poirot mystery on PBS television. Poirot was played by the excellent David  Suchet who has portrayed Poirot the longest. He has the acting down pat and the moustache, also. This production was entitled “Halloween” and about a young woman, in England, who said she had witnessed a murder years before as a child. The scene was an apple-bobbing party and the next day, the young woman was found dead. Fast Forward and today we have “A Haunting in Venice” with the same theme, except the location. Kenneth Branagh, who directed the last two “Hercule Poirot” films (“Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death On The Nile”) also directs “A Haunting in Venice,” plus playing Hercule Poirot, Unfortunately, Branagh’s moustache in this movie takes over every scene and sometimes enters the room before he does. As with Agatha Christie mysteries, there is evil afoot and Hercule Poirot, master detective, is on the prowl. Christie also wrote about an inquisitive elderly lady, Miss Marple, who managed to solve crimes literally from her back yard. Margaret Rutherford played Miss Marple then.

This story begins with Poirot (Branagh) retired, and to use a common phrase, “down in the dumps.” He is older, sadder and living in seclusion in Venice, Italy with Vitale (Riccardo Scarmarcio) as a friend/bodyguard. A writer, Ariadne (Tina Fey) tweaks Poirot’s interest about attending a séance held by Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) at the home of Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly) which is supposed to be haunted. Ariadna is convinced Reynolds is a fraud.  During the séance, strange things happen and before you can say, “twirl that moustache,” someone is dead, and the séance went kibosh. Bodies begin to pile up and Poirot must work fast to figure this one out, plus find the killer. Behind all this, others are being blackmailed, threatened and the clock is ticking. Poirot must pull himself together and see what is afoot.

Agatha Christie novels, and she was a prolific writer, have a striking beginning, middle and satisfactory ending.  It is the characters and locales that are interesting and keep readers coming back for more. When an actor has a role here, they have their moment in time, which is what makes “A Haunting in Venice” interesting. Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot has eyes that peer right into a person and see what makes them tick. Jamie Dorman as Dr. Leslie Ferrier shows us confusion as to what to do in his particular situation. Tine Fey’s Ariadne is curious about something and brings Poirot along for help. Jude Hill, as Dorman’s son, has his own secrets to keep. Michelle Yeoh’s Joyce Reynolds is suddenly surprised and her facial expressions show it. As with the other Poirot films, the actors make this an acting class.

There have been several Hercule Poirot detectives in the past, including Albert Finney, David Suchet  and Kenneth Branagh, but my favorite is David Suchet, who shows finesses in whatever he does. When his Hercule Poirot is “down in the dumps,” he shows it.  That said, “A Haunting in Venice” is an adequate mystery, with shadows, mystique and a plot with twists and turns. You will not be disappointed in Branagh's Poirot. Opening a month before Halloween, it gives mystery a quiet name without a Freddie Kreuger or Jason lurking in the bushes. 

Copyright 2023 Marie Asner