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Recommended age 12-18
103 minutes
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HAUNTING IN VENICE, A cover image Click to play video trailer
While A Haunting in Venice is a significant departure from its roots as an Agatha Christie novel, its clever writing, superb set design and cinematography--and Kenneth Branagh's skillful acting--make it a relentlessly intriguing, vivid film for lovers of mystery, history, and intrigue.

In 1947, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is in retirement in Venice, and when visited by his American authoress friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), he is pulled into a mystery at the palazzo, a former orphanage haunted by children's spirits. Oliver invites Poirot to a seance held by opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly), who's mourning the death of her daughter, Alicia. He must get to the bottom of whether Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), a medium who means to summon Alicia's spirit during the s�ance, is legitimate or not. What ensues is a creepy series of -- perhaps fortunate -- events. The plot is interesting, but the solution to the mystery is not particularly unique, though it is unveiled with a lovely, dramatic monologue by Branagh. The setting of the story in post-World War II Venice is most striking; some characters suffer from PTSD, and even Joyce Reynolds was a nurse during the war. Everyone is in mourning of some sort.

The story revels in the richness of its visuals, unique setting, and in its talkative script. Kenneth Branagh not only headlines, but also directs the film. Branagh, cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos and production designer John Paul Kelly are a dream team; they beautifully capture one of the world's most striking cities, interspersing the action--which takes place in the dark, ornate palazzo--with classic, scenic shots of gondolas and canals at sunset. The classic horror movie effects like scurrying rats, falling chandeliers, and banging doors are not overdone, though they are somewhat cliched. Branagh hams up Poirot's Belgian French accent and truly seems to be loving his role. Tina Fey shines as the sharp-tongued American, the authoress with a suspicious motive; she balances out Poirot's gloominess with some humor and an almost campy demeanor. This, along with other elements in the film, means that A Haunting in Venice is both a horror and a whodunit, a perfect film for Halloween, the spooky season, or anytime.

A Haunting in Venice touches on all kinds of themes -- religion, the supernatural, and belief in good over evil. Poirot repeats time and again that his job, dealing with cruelty, vice, and death, means he simply cannot believe that God exists. He lives, instead, on cold rationality. This mystery doesn't exactly make him change his mind, but he ends with a belief that he, as a detective, can do some good in the world, and he decides to emerge from retirement. There's optimism and light even in this dark tale. Parents should be aware that A Haunting in Venice contains mentions of suicide, death, murder, and violence.

I give A Haunting in Venice 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18 plus adults. A Haunting in Venice debuts on digital retailers and Hulu on October 31, 2023, and arrives on Blu-ray/DVD on November 28, 2023.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

A Haunting in Venice combines real life and supernatural elements into one creepy mystery. Although it is slow to start and a bit overwhelming at times, but it has a very interesting plot with many in-depth characters.

This film follows retired detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) as he attends a Halloween party followed by a seance at a palazzo that is rumored to be haunted. Trapped in the house with people he doesn't know and danger increasing by the minute, he realizes he must identify the murderer as quickly as possible. As he speaks with each of the other people trapped in the house and puts together the pieces of the trouble, he must also ignore the voices he's hearing and children's ghosts he's seeing.

A Haunting in Venice takes place in a haunted palazzo, which sets the story up to be scary and suspenseful. The palazzo is dark and appears old and abandoned. The structure, furniture and general style of the place also clues me in to how ancient the house really is. It is perfectly ominous, forcing me to constantly be on the edge of my seat. While this film does an excellent job of creating suspense and eeriness within the haunted palazzo, some of the supernatural elements are unnecessary distractions. The main focus of the plot is around the mystery, figuring out who committed the murder of Alice long ago, and who could be committing crimes now. However, with the constant emphasis of supernatural bits, such as the supposed ghosts and voices that some people seem to be seeing and hearing, the mystery seems less important than escaping these spirits. While the combination of the supernatural and mystery elements make for a constantly suspenseful story, it often leads to too much chaos, distracting me from the mystery and the story eventually becomes slightly hard to follow. With all of this being said, the mystery itself is very well done. Clues throughout the film as well as careful concentration during each of the characters' alibis all add up to the shocking ending of who is responsible for these crimes. Each character has so much depth, with their alibis showing information from their background, providing possible motives and revealing some reason to suspect them.

The theme of A Haunting in Venice is to be careful who you trust. Even though most of the characters seem to get along fine, they all realize that the murderer is among them, possibly even someone they thought to be their friend. The Haunting in Venice does contain some gore and mildly inappropriate language, as well as scary and creepy elements.

I give A Haunting in Venice 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. You can watch The Haunting in Venice on Hulu and other digital retailers beginning October 31, 2023 and on Blu-ray and DVD beginning November 28.

By Kyla C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

A Haunting in Venice is a chilling murder mystery with a ghostly twist. I love the set design and the plot development, and the use of symbolism adds to its grim sophistication.

The storyline takes place over Halloween night and follows Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), a retired detective who has relocated to Venice, Italy, intending to find a peaceful balance in his life away from solving mysteries. Poirot's old friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) convinces him to join her at a Halloween party at the palazzo, where he meets Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly), who persuades him to solve the mystery of her daughter (Rowan Robinson)'s murder. However, all is not what it seems, and after a disturbing session with a spiritualist (Michelle Yeoh), Poirot begins to suspect he is up against a supernatural force.

The setting of Venice is fitting for the movie, with its peaceful canals and masquerade parties. The palazzo has an abandoned charm, and the dark, Baroque-inspired interior reflects the ghastly style of the movie. The lighting is dim for the most part, adding to the ominously peaceful vibe. I enjoyed the cinematography, especially for flashback scenes, which are black and white and grainy, like an old movie. This pattern repeats itself in the flashbacks in all Poirot movies. A Haunting in Venice is, in part, a psychological thriller. If you pay close attention, you will notice that apples are used as a symbol throughout the film. At the end, Poirot confirms that the apples were used as a diversion - someone used them to try to play games with his mind. At the beginning of the movie, Poirot is nearly drowned while apple-bobbing. Apples are placed in every room in the palazzo, intended to lead Poirot to think he is losing his mind. There are also multiple references made to Adam and Eve, one of which is the apple. Another is the cuckoo clock, which features Adam, Eve and Satan. This clock is shown multiple times. The chiming of the clock is used to foreshadow an epiphany, a reveal or a shocking event.

The message of A Haunting in Venice is that we should all watch out, because the people we trust the most might be the first to betray us. Another message is that you should never rule out any possibilities if they have a chance of being the truth, because sometimes it can surprise you. Be aware that there are disturbing scenes of violence, spiritual possession and psychosis.

I give A Haunting In Venice 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. A Haunting in Venice debuts on digital retailers and Hulu on October 31, 2023, and arrives on Blu-ray/DVD on November 28, 2023.

By Ella S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

see youth comments
A Haunting in Venice is set in eerie, post-World War II Venice on All Hallows' Eve and is a terrifying mystery featuring the return of the celebrated sleuth, Hercule Poirot. Now retired and living in self-imposed exile in the world's most glamorous city, Poirot reluctantly attends a s�ance at a decaying, haunted palazzo. When one of the guests is murdered, the detective is thrust into a sinister world of shadows and secrets.
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