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Watch A Haunting in Venice, 2023's best murder mystery, this Halloween

Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot stories, "A Haunting in Venice," is his best mystery yet.

Kenneth Branagh, known for his goofy mustache and funny accent, has proven himself to be a skilled adapter of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot stories. While his previous adaptation, Murder on the Orient Express, was a decent thriller and a satisfactory update of a classic whodunit, his latest mystery, A Haunting in Venice, now available on Hulu just in time for Halloween, is his best yet. Let's not even mention Death on the Nile.

A Haunting in Venice is based on Christie's novel Hallowe'en Party but deviates from the original story in several ways. In this adaptation, Poirot is brought out of retirement by a friend who is a mystery writer to investigate the supernatural claims of a medium. As expected, things don't go according to plan and a murder takes place, forcing our heroic Belgian detective to delve into the case.

After three Poirot movies, Branagh is clearly growing more confident as a director in the murder mystery genre. Haunting is visually stunning, paying homage to the greatest directors of the era in which the movie is set, such as Fritz Lang and Orson Welles. The Venetian villa, where most of the action unfolds, is shot to resemble a Gothic castle, with looming shadows that engulf the room and suits of armor that seem ready to come to life. The movie exudes a tremendous sense of moodiness, with a creeping sense of dread and mystery, yet it never loses its momentum or sense of enjoyment. While Branagh may not match the originality of vision displayed by the true masters, he excels at adapting and repurposing directing styles and camera movements, just as he does with storytelling.

While A Haunting in Venice is the scariest of Branagh's Poirot movies, it falls short of reaching full horror movie levels of terror. Specters and walking dead are frequently seen, claims of a haunted orphanage are made, and death lurks around every corner, but it remains within the realm of what most viewers can handle.

The only major flaw in the movie lies in the performances of some of the actors, who struggle to match the quality of the script and directing. Branagh himself shines as Poirot, delivering an arch and knowing performance with the perfect touch of silliness, while also conveying the pain and sorrow of a man who has witnessed much death. Camille Cottin impresses as a suspicious housekeeper, and Michelle Yeoh is excellent in her brief appearance as the medium Poirot investigates. However, Tina Fey falls short in her role as Poirot's author friend, lacking the charisma to match the rest of the cast and giving away too much of the movie's intrigue. Nevertheless, this is a minor issue in an otherwise enjoyable film.

The more time Branagh devotes to his Poirot movies, the more evident his love for making them becomes. And that's fantastic because these movies showcase Branagh at his most entertaining, both as an actor and a filmmaker. He gets to showcase his accent and embrace all the silly mannerisms one performance can handle. Branagh truly shines as a filmmaker when he has clear references to draw from, whether it be novels or entire eras of filmmaking, and this series provides him with both. It's fortunate that he enjoys making these movies because they are truly getting better. Here's to many more Poirot adaptations from Branagh in the future.

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