Kenneth Branagh’s newest Agatha Christie adaptation, A Haunting In Venice (2023), is an adaptation loosely based on Christie’s book, Hallowe’en Party. Agatha Christie is considered one of the greatest mystery writers of all time, but this adaptation seemed to have missed the mark.
The film follows Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), a detective who is in self-isolation in Venice. He is visited by an old friend, Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), who convinces Poirot to attend a Halloween party with her while she collects information for her newest novel. Upon arrival at the party, the guests immediately feel something off about the house where the party is being held. The host of the party, Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly) addresses the feeling by telling a ghost story about a group of children who were murdered in the house. She explains that the feeling shared by all the guests at the party must be the spirits of the dead children. However, gathering to tell ghost stories was not the main goal of this party. Rowena had other plans by inviting Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) to perform a seance to talk to Drake’s daughter, Alicia, who she claims died by suicide.
Through thorough interrogations, Poirot and Ariadne discover that it was none other than Rowena Drake, who killed her daughter slowly by putting poisoned honey in her tea. It was yet another foreseeable Hollywood murder by an overprotective mother who was jealous of her daughter’s boyfriend. It was also revealed that Rowena was being blackmailed by someone who knew the truth about the murder of her daughter. The young son of the late Dr. Ferrier, Leopold (Jude Hill), saw his father’s medical records on Alicia and started putting the pieces together: She had not jumped off her balcony; rather, she was pushed. I appreciated the addition of the Leopold/Rowena blackmail because it was an actual, Agatha Christie level plot-twist. After being exposed for the murder of her daughter, Rowena tries to escape up the stairs and onto the balcony which she had pushed Alicia from. It is up to interpretation what happens next. From what we, the audience, see, Rowena is pulled off of the balcony by her daughter’s ghost as a sort of revenge for her murder. But Poirot, the one who witnessed this event, is an unreliable narrator, seeing as he had consumed some of the poisoned honey before the encounter, which may have caused him to hallucinate the event entirely. After solving the case and tying up all the loose ends of the investigation, Poirot returns to his office in Venice and begins to work more as a private detective.