The detective, Hercule Poirot, is back in action in Haunting in Venice, this time adapted from the novel entitled Hallowe’en Party (1969) by Agatha Christie. Kenneth Branagh is still playing the iconic detective and directing this third series with a script written by Michael Green. Like the previous two films, Haunting in Venice again stars several famous names: Tina Fey, Michelle Yeoh, Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill, Ali Khan, Emma Laird, and Kelly Reilly. Will this third Poirot series offer something different from the previous two films?
Poirot, who is enjoying his retirement in Venice, is invited by his old friend, Ariadne Oliver (Fey), to a Halloween party. After the party, host Rowena Drake (Reilly) held a seance by famous psychic Joyce Reynolds (Yeoh), which special family guests attended. Rowena has a daughter who is said to have committed suicide due to an evil spirit in the old building. This tense event ended with the tragic murder of someone. Poirot returns to action to find the culprit behind the guests.
Haunting in Venice is not a loyal adaptation of the novel set in England. This is certainly fine for the third series of detective adventure films. The film medium needs a solid visual appeal; in this case, it is the exotic city of Venice. This third film also takes a different touch from the previous one, with a “horror” tone. It is hoped that the horror element will undoubtedly be an attraction where the second series could have been more successful in the market.
The plot still uses the previous formula through a solid three-act structure—exposition of the characters and murder events, the detective’s investigation, and the shocking conclusion. The story’s setting is still in an isolated situation (exit access is closed), which this time is supported by the atmosphere of an old building with dimly lit hallways and rooms. The “jump scare” insert is found in the investigation process, which can blur the scientific and supernatural realms. Like the previous series, the investigation is exciting and intense, this time accompanied by Poirot’s old friend, who acts as an assistant. Poirot and Oliver’s chemistry develops nicely throughout the film. Like the two previous series, the cinematography achievements are nicely done with measurable composition.
With a touch of horror, an exotic setting, strong cinematography, a line-up of big casting, plus the detective’s typical investigative formula, this doesn’t necessarily make Haunting in Venice better than before. The set of Venice City could be more visually explored because the story locations are primarily in buildings. The cast is now not as sparkling as before, even though they all play well. These two factors make the film seem “cheaper” than the previous two series. It’s understandable to look at the box-office results of the second series. Horror fans will find the horror side of this film too heavy and crisp, without any significant bites. Haunting in Venice is enough to present another side of the detective’s investigative adventure—no more. We are still waiting for Hercule Poirot’s next exciting adventure.