What is the point of a whodunnit if you already know whodidit? That was the big question that hung over Kenneth Branagh’s first two Hercule Poirot movies.
In Murder On The Orient Express (2017) and Death On The Nile (2022), actor-director Branagh freshened up two of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels with a more three-dimensional Belgian detective. But the plots were almost fatally familiar.
A Haunting In Venice was inspired by Christie’s 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party, but this time only the occasion and a few character names survive from the book.
There’s also a marked change in atmosphere. The first two were set in the glamorous, brightly lit world of 1930s travel.
A spooky energy pervades the third as Poirot’s rationality is shaken during an eventful night in a dingy haunted house.
It’s 1947, 10 years after the events of Death On the Nile, and Branagh’s fastidious detective is lured out of retirement by visiting novelist Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey).
Opera diva Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly) is holding a Halloween seance at her spooky palazzo, a former orphanage rumoured to house the ghosts of young plague victims.
Ariadne, desperate for material for a new novel, challenges the famous detective to debunk the work of visiting medium Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh).
Poirot quickly rumbles the psychic. But, when a murder is committed and creepy voices echo down the corridors, he orders the gates to be locked while he engages his “little grey cells”.
Among the worldly suspects are a Bible-thumping housekeeper (Camille Cottin), an anguished doctor (Jamie Dornan) and his creepily precocious son (Belfast star Jude Hill).
Horror nuts could find it a bit tame but Christie fans should welcome a fresh guessing game and devilish twists to the classic formula.
A Haunting in Venice, Cert 12A, is in cinemas now