Celebrate the mysterious side of Halloween this season with the all-new murder mystery – A Haunting in Venice. This Kenneth Branagh-directed stylistic thriller will make you jump, second guess yourself, and question whether ghosts are real.
The Mystery is Afoot
Based on the Agatha Christie story “Hallowe’en Party”, A HAUNTING IN VENICE is set in eerie, post-World War II Venice on All Hallows’ Eve. Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is now retired, having solved many mysteries documented in previous films – DEATH ON THE NILE and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. But he reluctantly agrees to attend a All Hallows Eve party and seance at a decaying, haunted palazzo when his friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) prods him into attending. The current owner, Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly), is a retired opera star whose daughter mysteriously died. Rowena believes that death is somehow connected to the haunted nature of the palazzo, and invites famed spirit medium Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) to hold a séance to get to the bottom of this mystery.
However, when one of the guests is murdered, Poirot can’t help but start an investigation. Not only must he contend with the murder, but the scientifically-minded Poirot must also come to terms with the fact that ghosts may be real.
Like DEATH ON THE NILE and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Poirot must solve a murder mystery in one enclosed space with a cast of characters who, due to the first murder, all become suspects.
Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey)
Murder mystery book author and friend of Hercule Poirot, her last three novels have been flops. Now, she seeks a good story for her next book, which is why she’s roped Poirot in to attend this seance at the “haunted” palazzo. Her character is loosely based on Agatha Christie, but also has similarities to Fey’s ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING character, podcaster Cinda Canning.
Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh)
Having an extremely sensitive soul when it comes to sensing the dead, Joyce holds séances to help the living with their grief. She has been invited to the palazzo by Rowena Drake to connect with Drake’s dead daughter.
Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly)
Rowena is a retired opera star who finds herself living in the decaying palazzo which was once an orphanage. She doesn’t have the money to fix the place up because she is being blackmailed by an unknown person. The plot thickens…
Dr. Leslie Ferrier (Jamie Dornan) and son Leopold (Jude Hill)
Dr. Ferrier suffers from PTSD from working the front line as a doctor during World War II. He is the Drake family doctor and friend to Rowena. His young son Leopold sees the world much like Poirot does – through a scientific lens. The brilliant boy helps his father through bouts of PTSD and helps the doctor stay mentally focused.
Olga Seminoff (Camille Cottin)
Olga is Rowena’s housekeeper for going on 20 years, but she is not a very good one. However, no one else will take the job at a haunted palazzo, so Olga has no competition! Olga, having no children herself, is devoted to Rowena and her daughter (when she was alive).
Nicholas Holland (Ali Khan) and Desdemona Holland (Emma Laird)
Nicholas and Desdemona are refugees from a war, and were taken in by medium Joyce Reynolds as her trusted assistants. They also share a love for American film and TV. Desdemona especially loves the film MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. Because they’ve had to raise themselves, the two are good at stealing, lying and cheating to survive. Their primary goal is to raise enough money to immigrate to America, specifically St. Louis, Missouri.
Maxime Gerard (Kyle Allen)
Maxime is the former fiance of Rowena’s dead daughter, and it’s a mystery why he was invited to this seance! He has a man-crush on Poirot, and wants to be as smart as him.
Vitale Portfoglio (Riccardo Scamarcio)
Hercule Poirot’s bodyguard, he is primarily at the séance to protect and guard Poirot. As a trusted protector and one-time police officer, even he is not above suspicion.
The third film in the Agatha Christie/Hercule Poirot series is just what you need to see for this upcoming Halloween season. The film provides scares, twists, and a spooky who-dunit that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Director and star Kenneth Branagh set the viewers up with the previous films in the series, DEATH ON THE NILE and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, now you have everything you need for this haunting mystery.
Along with Branagh’s mustachioed detective, the cast (and suspects) include Michelle Yeoh, Kelly Reilly, Riccardo Scamarcio, Jamie Dornan, and Tina Fey who has never been better. They along with others are invited to the decaying and “haunted” palazzo which becomes one of the film’s bigger characters. When unexplained accidents happen throughout the night, Poirot is at his best adding up random clues. The only thing that rattles this seasoned sleuth, is the question of actual ghosts.
Branagh has once again constructed a work of art. Off-set camera angles make the viewer feel unforgettable with the lack of intentional symmetry. Oftentimes he’ll put characters in the frame with the palazzo taking up much of the space. Being one of the biggest characters in the film, the palazzo with its shadows and secrets takes over the cast. When Poirot (Branagh) and Ariadne Oliver (Fey) enter the palazzo, they have a conversation but we are viewing them from a very high angle – almost as if it’s the point of view of a ghost or entity. Branagh also uses wide angle lenses, which gives a fish-eye bend to the frames.
Because this film is peppered with different accents – English, French, Belgian – we recommend watching with Closed Captions. You can request these CC viewers in your theater and they are so helpful in understanding dialogue and helping you remember the names of the several characters. But even without captions you will still be able to follow the plot. Refer to our character guide above to get a leg up on the story!
Hildur Guðnadóttir composed A HAUNTING IN VENICE soundtrack made up mainly of strings. Bernard Hermann’s score to Hitchcock’s PSYCHO famously uses only strings, emphasizing the black and white nature of that psychologically horrifying film. Guðnadóttir’s score is used sparingly to give the palazzo a dilapidated quality, but also influences the many jump scares within the film.
Unlike past spookfests meant for the Halloween season like HOCUS POCUS (1993) and HAUNTED MANSION (2023) that were released in July, A HAUNTING IN VENICE comes at just the right time. If blood, guts and gore is not your genre choice for this time of year, A HAUNTING IN VENICE is the thrilling spook story you are looking for. The film has a runtime of 1 hour and 43 minutes, is rated PG-13, and opens in U.S. theaters on September 15th. Let us know if you will see it!