‘A Haunting in Venice’ Ending Explained
12 mins read

‘A Haunting in Venice’ Ending Explained

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for A Haunting in Venice.

The Big Picture

  • Agatha Christie’s
    A Haunting in Venice
    delivers an unexpected and exhilarating twist, proving why she is a legend in the murder mystery genre.
  • The killer in the story is revealed to be Rowena Drake, the mother of the original victim, who had been poisoning her daughter to keep her under control.
  • Poirot’s encounter with Alicia’s ghost and the ambiguous ending leaves unanswered questions about the supernatural and Poirot’s faith.

Hercule Poirot, as played by Kenneth Branagh, had his third adventure in A Haunting in Venice last month, garnering decent critical response but disappointing box-office numbers. While this trio of movies has been received only moderately well (that’s putting it lightly for Death on the Nile), you can rest assured that there’s an unexpected and exhilarating twist, thanks to the writer of the original books and the Queen of the murder mystery, Agatha Christie. With Christie’s mysteries and twists, she always knows exactly what her readers are thinking, and then takes that and completely throws it out the window. Halfway into A Haunting in Venice, you might think you have it all figured out, but there’s a reason Christie is known as a legend in this genre. While many knew who the culprit(s) were going into Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, Hallowe’en Party, the original text for A Haunting in Venice isn’t as famous.

The movie has just hit VOD and is also available to stream on Hulu; perfect timing for a Halloween night scare. So, whether you somewhat predicted this twist, already knew from the book, or were completely blown away, you might need a quick rundown of exactly what happened in A Haunting in Venice’s finale. That’s what your trusty entertainment website Collider is here for!

A Haunting in Venice Film Poster

A Haunting in Venice

In post-World War II Venice, Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once again uncover the killer.

Release Date September 15, 2023

Runtime 103 minutes

Main Genre Drama

What Is ‘A Haunting in Venice’ About?

It’s been a few years since the events of Death on the Nile and Poirot is now living in Venice and has given up the detective profession. However, he gets easily pulled back in by his old friend and renowned mystery writer (Christie really copied and pasted herself), Ariadne Oliver, played by Tina Fey. Ariande invites Poirot to a séance held by renowned opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly) in an effort to contact her deceased daughter, Alicia (Rowan Robinson). The circumstances around Alicia’s death are suspicious, and Ariadne is dying to get a front-row seat for her next book, as her last three failed to become bestsellers. (Motive? That’s exactly what I thought. But I am no match for Christie). They attend the Halloween party at Rowena’s house, which is full of interesting characters. You have a local doctor, Dr. Ferrier (Jamie Dornan in his funniest performance since the Fifty Shades franchise), who has been consumed by PTSD from the war and really shouldn’t be practicing (more on that later). We have Ferrier’s precocious young son, Leopold (Jude Hill), who feels more like Ferrier’s wife or nurse. Then there’s Rowena Drake herself and her loyal housekeeper, Olga (Camille Cottin).

Who Gets Murdered in ‘A Haunting in Venice’?

The dramatics really kick in upon the arrival of the world-famous medium (although many are skeptical of her), Mrs. Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), and her two assistants (Emma Laird and Ali Khan). Then we get our first obvious suspect, Maxime (Kyle Allen), the man who proposed to Alicia and then apparently left her for a richer woman. Rowena despises the sight of him and no one knows who wrote the letter inviting Maxime. Okay, that’s all the characters, let’s get to the meerrdeerrrs. The first to go is Mrs. Reynolds, who is thrown from a balcony and lands right on a statue, getting impaled right through the stomach. Ouch!

Just before this happens, Poirot is engaging his inner child and is bobbing for apples in a bowl of water. A cloaked figure holds down his head in an effort to drown the world-famous detective, but Poirot survives. After being given tea with Rowena Drake’s home-grown honey, Poirot shuts shit down and asks his bodyguard to not let anyone leave or enter. Rain is pouring, wind is blistering, and Poirot’s mustache is twitching. Yes, you guessed it, Poirot is on the case! There are many mysteries that present themselves throughout the film. Who invited Alicia’s fiancé, Maxime? Who is responsible for Alicia’s death? Who tried to kill Poirot and who successfully murdered Mrs. Reynolds and Dr. Ferrier? All shall be revealed.

While you may not have been blamed for believing that Ariadne Olvier is the mastermind behind this mystery to inspire her next bestseller, she’s not the killer. However, it is revealed that she is the one who invited Maxime to the dinner party to conjure up some drama for her next book. The killer is genuinely who you least expect it to be, the mother of the original victim: Rowena Drake. It is mentioned throughout the film that Rowena and Alicia were as close as a mother and daughter could be. Maybe too close? While Rowena spreads the idea that Maxime left Alicia because she wasn’t rich enough, the truth is that Maxime couldn’t be in a relationship with someone who was so tied to their mother, especially with that mother absolutely detesting him. When Maxime tried to make amends with Alicia, Rowena wouldn’t allow him to see her and then it was too late.

Who’s the Killer in ‘A Haunting in Venice’?

Kelly Reilly in A Haunting in Venice Image Via 20th Century Studios

The palazzo has a garden that grows flowers whose pollen produces wildflower honey. However, the flowers currently planted aren’t wildflowers. There’s a little hint to this earlier in the film when Maxime gets a cut and uses the honey as an antiseptic, and he casually mentions that it’s not wildflower upon smelling it. It turns out to be poisonous, toxic honey that gives people the effect of a hallucinogen. This explains why Poirot is seeing people who aren’t there, including the ghost of Alicia. This is also why Alicia was mentally ill for the last few weeks of her life. Her mother had been poisoning her to keep her unwell and therefore, under her control. After Alicia and Maxime got engaged, Rowena tore up the garden in a fit of rage. She then traveled to Turkey to acquire the flower that produces this drug-effect honey.

On the night of Alicia’s death, Rowena, not in her right mind due to exhaustion, allows Olga to take over and keep on Alicia watch. What Olga doesn’t know is that the honey they keep feeding Alicia in her tea has been measured out carefully by Rowena so as not to lead to Alicia’s overdose. But of course, Olga doesn’t know that, so she lashes the honey into Alicia’s tea in a bid to calm her down. When Olga leaves thinking Alicia is just calmly sleeping, Rowena returns to find Alicia dead and panics. She knows she’ll be found out, so she throws Alicia over the balcony into the Venice River, staging the act as a suicide or a murder by someone else. After all, who could kill their own child?

Back to the present day: Rowena Drake murderers Mrs. Reynolds as she suspects that Reynolds has figured out what happened to Alicia and will reveal who her true killer is. Rowena tries to murder Poirot and then hastily runs to the indoor balcony and pushes Mrs. Reynolds to her death. How Poirot came to be poisoned by the honey is actually an innocent mistake. We’re suspicious of Ariadne as she’s the one who gives Poirot the tea, and she remarks that she found the honey in the linen press. But Rowena only put the honey there to hide it. Ariadne unknowingly gives Poiroit the toxic honey, leading to him becoming drugged and hallucinating the undead.

Why does Dr. Ferrier bite it too? After his PTSD leads him to start fighting Maxime, and then he’s creepily calmed down by his man-child son, he is locked inside the music room, which happens to be soundproofed, so he can sleep. Rowena makes a big show of her giving the only key to Poirot. It turns out, Rowena was being blackmailed by someone who knows the truth behind Alicia’s death. Rowena believes it’s Ferrier as he was the doctor on the scene of Alicia’s death, so she rings him while he is in the music room, and tells him if he does not kill himself, she’ll murder his son. His son is the only thing he lives for, so it’s an easy decision. Ferrier impales himself on a decorative sword inside the room. A murder without physical contact. God, she’s good. However, it wasn’t Dr. Ferrier who blackmailed Rowena, it was his son! Leopold figured it out from his dad’s notes, who didn’t notice anything untoward because well, he really shouldn’t be practicing. Leopold blackmailed Rowena for money so he and his dad could survive since his father wasn’t able to work due to his chronic PTSD.

Did Poirot Really See Alicia’s Ghost?

Poiroit with Alicia's ghost in a Haunting in Venice Image Via 20th Century Studios

Poirot reveals this all in his usual grand soliloquy style, and everyone is understandably shocked. Rowena Drake, who has now turned into a hysterical mommy murderer, won’t go down without a fight though, and moves to escape, but Poirot is hot on her heels, chasing her to Alicia’s bedroom. While Poirot and Rowena battle it out on the very balcony that Alicia fell from while the heavens open, the unthinkable happens. Alicia’s ghost appears in a jump scare and at the same time, Rowena falls into the river, just like the way she staged Alicia’s death. It’s somewhat implied that Alicia’s ghost has come back to exact revenge on her mother, but it’s all left incredibly ambiguous. Was this a real ghost, or was Poirot still under the influence of the poisonous honey? Did Rowena jump out of shame for her crimes or… Did Poirot push her? We don’t know, and I’m not sure Branagh knows himself.

The film ends with Poirot getting his groove back. Poirot’s skepticism of God and the other side are discussed a lot with Ariadne earlier in the film. Has seeing Alicia’s ghost restored his faith in both God and humanity? At the start of the movie, he was ignoring all the public’s pleas for help. But now, he’s opening his mind and heart to the world again! Maybe he’ll move to yet another city to spread his moustache-PTSD-induced wisdom. Dare I say, that means… Poirot in Paris? or Poirot Goes to Space? When it comes to Kenneth Branagh, anything is possible.

A Haunting in Venice is available to stream on Hulu.

Watch on Hulu