Every house in Venice is either cursed or haunted. There are almost as many ghost stories about the lagoon city as there are tourists. The walls of the centuries-old buildings tell dramas, the rippling water on the house walls seems ghostly, especially when darkness falls and the deserted corridors are illuminated by the yellow lantern light. And it is precisely this Venice, which according to some people is haunted by souls and mystical figures, that is Hercule Poirot’s new retreat.

The year is 1947 and the master detective is no longer interested in murder and manslaughter. After countless cases and two wars, he wants to be left alone. Poirot has fans and troublemakers removed by a specially hired bodyguard. On the roof terrace of his Venetian retreat, he enjoys drinking tea and letting the Italian sun shine on his face. A nice, quiet life – until an old acquaintance haunts him that he can’t easily ignore. Crime writer Ariadne Oliver (played by Tina Fey) wants to encourage Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh, to return to his old job. Solving mysteries, finding murderers – that’s what makes Poirot Poirot. He’s not himself anymore, she tells him. And so Oliver invites him to an evening séance on Halloween in a Venetian palazzo. With ulterior motives, of course.

The host is the Grande Dame Rowena Drake. She is desperate after her daughter Alicia fell from the balcony of the palazzo last year and fell to her death. With the help of the medium Mrs. Reynolds (played by Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh), she wants to summon Alicia’s spirit and find out what really happened to her. Drake’s greatest wish is to hear her daughter’s voice. Immediately after arriving at the slowly crumbling palazzo, the spooky setting is set: visitors to the former orphanage – so the rumors go – are haunted by the corpses of countless children who have been left to die and are looking for revenge.

Poirot’s oversized ego can’t really handle it. He finds ghost stories and conversations with voices silly and doesn’t believe in the superhuman. Mrs. Reynolds is also a thorn in his side. But with every new discovery in the haunted palazzo, the detective begins to question his own ideas. Does he really hear the voices of dead children coming from the walls? And who is to blame for Alicia Drake’s mysterious death? It doesn’t take long before Poirot and Co. realize that they are all in serious danger.

“A Haunting in Venice” is the third Poirot case directed by Branagh, after “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile”. It is darker than its predecessors with more horror elements that probably won’t entice true horror fans out from behind the stove, but will certainly make fans of Poirot films cringe in their seats.

In addition to the top-class star cast including Jamie Dornan as the nasty ex-fiancé of the dead Alicia, Venice herself plays one of the main roles. Poirot’s comeback could not have been staged more atmospherically in any other city. There are now more beds for tourists in the lagoon city than for locals. The trails are peppered with cafés and souvenir shops, the bridges are full of posing couples.

But if you get off the main paths, you can immediately feel the magic of the city. It doesn’t take much imagination to bring the mythical legends here to life. Branagh successfully captures the spirit of Venice, even if the plot is now far removed from Agatha Christie’s original, “Hallowe’en Party”.

The result is an entertaining murder mystery thriller with a Poirot in top form who, after initial doubts, quickly finds his way back to his profession. A fourth Poirot film starring Branagh has already been hinted at by producer James Prichard, should Branagh also be on board. However, the setting of “A Haunting in Venice” will be difficult to top.

“A Haunting in Venice” will be in cinemas from September 14th.