We were given a copy of 20th Century Studios’ “A Haunting in Venice” to review in digital format, which is available in up to 4K resolution. The movie is not available in physical media on 4K Blu-ray (only Blu-ray and DVD), so the Digital 4K version is the only way to get it with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. The Blu-ray does, however, offer DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 for non-Atmos systems that push 7 discreet channels and a subwoofer.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh, “A Haunting in Venice” was written by Michael Green based upon Agatha Christie’s novel “Hallowe’en Party.” Branagh reprises his role as Detective Hercule Poirot, supported by a cast that includes Tina Fey, Camille Cottin, Kelly Reilly, Jamie Dornan, and Oscar-winner Michelle Yeoh. The film was released by 20th Century Studios in US theaters on Sept. 15, 2023, and earned $120M on a $60M budget.
The video image in “A Haunting in Venice” at home is a bit on the flat side, but nevertheless delivers a clean image and subtle color palette that render beautifully on 4K and HDR screens. The earthy palette is rich with color depth and detail that bring out the textural set design.
The cinematography really makes this movie visually captivating, from the wide-angle shots to dramatic shadows and strategic use of shallow depth of field. Each shot from cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos (“Death on the Nile,” “Belfast”) is painterly and well-crafted in both lighting and composition.
The movie boasts a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that can make use of multiple channels of audio and effects placed in three-dimensional space. Given the genre of the film viewers should not expect an onslaught of audio elements, but rather a subtle approach that delivers surround sound audio where it’s needed. Sound effects are also used to scare the viewer through the use of telephones, crows, bells, and a threatening thunderstorm.
Subtle environmental effects enhance the dialogue, depending on the space, and sometimes the rear and side speakers are activated by the spatial characteristics. But when short clips take the viewer outside in the storm on Hallows Eve, or the basement rumblings from the non-existent basement, subwoofers deliver a crushing low-frequency experience.
The original music score by Icelandic artist Hildur Guðnadóttir sets the tone for the period piece which takes place in post-war Paris in 1947.
“A Haunting in Venice” is a bit of a slow burn, but with well-placed twists that raise the stakes along the throughline. The exceptional cast delivers a well-crafted script that’s rewarding for the invested viewer. The movie relies on some conventional scare tactics (such as quick cuts and hair-raising sound effects) while delivering some unique moments to the mystery/thriller genre that might have you revisiting the film again if given a chance.