“It’s exotic and it’s gothic, it’s mysterious,” Branagh himself said of the setting earlier this year to Empire. Most of the film is set inside a palazzo, a type of large, imposing building that Venice in particular is known for. It’s the perfect setting for a haunted house story, which is exactly what “A Haunting in Venice” seems interested in being. Branagh sees Poirot as a supernatural skeptic, and everything about this movie feels designed to convert him into a believer. “When you are isolated, perhaps in a haunted palazzo, it can suddenly be very much more,” Branagh explained. “Across that long, dark night of the soul, the action taking place across a single murder-filled evening, it can challenge your previously firmly-held convictions that there’s nothing out there.”
It’s a surprising approach, especially considering that there weren’t any supernatural vibes in the source material at all. “The Hallowe’en Party” was a typical whodunnit novel, one that wasn’t interested in challenging Poirot’s worldview about anything, let alone the supernatural. Branagh’s desire to force his version of Poirot to question his preconceived notions of the world isn’t anything out of left field. However, he’s always been trying to complicate the character, making him feel more like a real person than just a stock detective archetype. Branagh’s decision to add elements to Poirot’s backstory that were never there in the books is sometimes a mistake, like in the last movie where he decided to give us a long, melodramatic, unnecessary flashback sequence showing us how Branagh got his famous mustache. But perhaps with this new film, fleshing out Poirot can turn out for the best.