Some actors become famous for being miscast by a well-meaning director: Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, for instance, or Benedict Cumberbatch in anything that requires an American accent. Then some actors miscast themselves in vanity projects, (Once again, Kevin Costner comes to mind, as does anything James Franco cast himself in.) But of these crimes, the one that refuses to die is Kenneth Branagh's ongoing attempt to play Hercule Poirot in various 1970s-style star-studded film adaptations of Agatha Christie's classic works.
Branagh already proved he did not understand the character in his first film, Murder on the Orient Express. He then managed to steer into a ditch of casting choices for Death on the Nile. Sadly, neither of these dull renditions were box office flops large enough for Branagh to take a hint already. That means there will be a third one, with another cast of big names who either don't know or don't care that they are part of an ongoing mangling of Dame Agatha.
The director has selected one of Christie's lesser-known works for his third terrible adaptation. Hallowe'en Party, which was published in 1969, which he renamed A Haunting in Venice. It was Christie's fifth-to-last novel (she passed in 1976), and the second-to-last Poirot novel she ever wrote, followed by Elephants Can Remember. (Two more were published after that, but both were written much earlier.) It is far from her best work; reviews characterized it as "disappointing," despite Christie dedicating the book as "an ode to PG Wodehouse." In it, Poirot teams up with mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver (a thinly fictionalized version of herself who first debuted in the early 1930s) during a Halloween dinner party to solve a murder.
As the film's title suggests, the story is being relocated from its original English setting of "Rowena Drake's home in Woodleigh Common" to the famous Italian city. The story is also being moved to an earlier era -- Christie's original story was set in the present-day of the late 1960s, and the plot includes the recent abolition of capital punishment in the U.K. and the legalization of homosexuality, where a character is openly acknowledged as LGBTQ+. The synopsis suggests that the film will keep the "supernatural" elements of Christie's story, including the central seance.
Set in post-WWII Venice on All Hallows’ Eve, the film follows another mystery featuring the celebrated sleuth Poirot. Inspired by Christie’s “Hallowe’en Party,” the now retired and living in self-imposed exile Poirot reluctantly attends a séance at a haunted palazzo when one of the guests is murdered, and the former detective must once again find out who did it.
The actors who should know better than to join what will hopefully be the final of these Branagh headline films include British actors Jamie Dornan (The Fall), Kelly Reilly (Sherlock Holmes), Ali Khan (Red Rose), and Emma Laird (Mayor of Kingstown). Actors who aren't British but should also probably know better include Tina Fey (Mean Girls), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once), Kyle Allen (West Side Story), Camille Cottin (Killing Eve), and Riccardo Scamarico (John Wick: Chapter 2). Only Jude Hill (Belfast) is excused, as he's a child whose entire claim to fame is playing a thinly fictionalized version of young Kenneth Branagh.
A Haunting In Venice will attempt to haunt theaters in 2023, most likely in October.