Returning to his role as Hercule Poirot is Kenneth Branagh for the third time with each incarnation having a less ostentatiously flamboyant moustache than the last in this latest Agatha Christie adaptation A Haunting in Venice adapted from her novel Hallowe’en Party. Set in 1947 it finds the Belgian super sleuth now retired and living in Venice and able to afford a bodyguard to keep fans and acolytes away in a way that Liz Truss can only dream of. Claiming not to have any friends he does have at least one ; Ariadne Oliver ( Tina Fey) a novelist who has had a series of best selling novels based on a fictional version of Poirot and it is her who invites him along to a Halloween night séance for an ex opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly) now residing in a palazzo that rumoured to be haunted after the tragic death of her daughter.
He’s one of a number of guests that include a doctor and his precocious son, Drakes’ ex-husband and father of their late daughter, the palazzo’s housekeeper, as well as the two assistants for the medium herself Mrs Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) part empath, art showman but all charlatan as Poirot soon reveals in a moment that reveals her to be about as convincing as Phoenix Night’s Clinton Baptiste but with better clothes. All the guests are only too aware that the palazzo was a former orphanage where the children died in terrible circumstances and their spirits have vowed their revenge. It sets a far more supernatural tone for the murder that soon follows.
This third outing again has Branagh directing and is beautifully shot in low light and muted tones and often big close ups at canted angles that suggest there’s something ghostly just out of frame. And with the house with a history beset by stormy waters and torrential rain it’s a creepy place to be trapped in when there’s murder afoot. Like the previous films Branagh is the star of the show and like the subsequent films to both 1974 and 2017 versions of Murder on the Orient Express the star wattage of the cast is significantly lower but each have their moment when the light of suspicion falls on them.
Like all Agatha Christie whodunnit’s it is impossible for the audience to solve with Poirot finally revealing the culprit having been privvy to information that is never shared with viewers. But it’s the ride that’s everything, sumptuously photographed this is for the grown ups who have no interest in superheroes, art house or blockbusters. Old fashioned entertainment for an older audience that has lured them back to the cinema and proved that there is a market for this genre as proved with the perhaps more populist Knives Out films This is entertainingly told thriller where the things that go bump in the night isn’t Boris Johnson making a hasty retreat from a bedroom when his latest conquests husband returns home and is a mature crowd pleaser.
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Here’s the A Hunting in Venice trailer…….