The ghosts of our past return to haunt the living in Ted Geoghegan’s post WWII supernatural thriller Brooklyn 45. Set in that no man’s land between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, a group of estranged friends get together for the first time in years to comfort a friend. All veterans themselves, with the exception of one timid spouse, the dark shadow of war looms large over the entire group. But the war is the furthest thing from anyone’s minds when their host (played by Larry Fessenden) reveals that he has called them all together for a surprise seance to commune with the spirit of his recently deceased wife.
Having only committed suicide 6 weeks prior, Clive’s (Fessenden) grief is still very fresh. And with his priest all but assuring him that his wife’s soul has been damned to Hell, he has found it easier to believe that his German neighbors are spies, and that they had something to do with his wife’s death. After the reluctant group give in to their host’s request, they are very quickly visited by the spirit realm. Of course, they aren’t afforded much time to ponder the nature of life after death when it’s revealed that Clive has kidnapped his neighbor and locked her in a closet.
“Brooklyn 45 is like a high stakes escape room come to life.”
Set almost entirely in a parlor room, Brooklyn 45 is like a high stakes escape room come to life. Despite being longtime friends, this band of brothers (and sister) are constantly at each other’s throats. Their military careers precede them and old wounds are opened again as they bicker and argue about what to do with their surprise guest. And just like communing with the spirits, it’s a lot easier to open a door than it is to close it again.
I love a good seance, and I’m a sucker for suspenseful single-location thrillers. To Brooklyn 45‘s credit, it succeeds on both fronts. It doesn’t waste too much time in getting to the ghosts (bonus points for ectoplasm!) and it’s loaded with barbed dialogue that could turn at the drop of a hat. The group is always one miscalculated comment away from tearing itself apart.
The wartime metaphors and motifs are ever-present but I don’t know that the story every really drills home the point it’s trying to make. And large portions of the movie seem to forget that we’re in a ding dang ghost story, but Geoghegan delivers the goods in a finale that features one hell of a fun practical effect 👌
Despite taking place at seance that the ghosts refuse to let end, there is an awful lot of chit chat about how war makes good people do terrible things. Less a supernatural horror than a philosophical argument about America’s inability to find peace Brooklyn 45 is not the ghost-tastic joyride I had hoped it would be. Instead, it’s a 12 Angry Men style debate with a pesky ghost trying to sway the vote.
“…a 12 Angry Men style debate with a pesky ghost trying to sway the vote.”
Given the setup, the story is incredibly dependent on dialog and when it works, it really works. It’s occasionally overwrought, sometimes repetitive, but it’s all delivered by a talented cast who understand their characters. Going off just a short synopsis and the promise of a spirit-infested seance, I had expected a different type of movie altogether but when you meet Brooklyn 45 on its own terms, it is a very well-constructed single-location thriller about the darkness of doubt and mistrust. Geoghegan does a good job of fleshing out exactly what it is that haunts each of these people individually, I just would have appreciated a little more ghost haunting.
Ted Geoghegan’s Brooklyn 45 celebrated its World Premiere as part of the 2023 SXSW Film Festival Midnighters program. Written and Directed by Geoghegan, Brooklyn 45 stars Larry Fessenden (Jakob’s Wife), Anne Ramsay (The Taking of Deborah Logan), Ron E. Rains (The Onion Film Standard), Jeremy Holm (The Ranger), Ezra Buzzington (Mohawk), Kristina Klebe (Rob Zombie’s Halloween)
Presented by Shudder the film will likely be available on the streaming platform later this year, though no official release has yet been announced. Let us know if you’re excited to see this war-torn ghost story over on Twitter or in the Nightmare on Film Street Discord! Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.
[SXSW 2023 Review] WWII Veterans Summon Dark Spirits At A Surprise Seance in BROOKLYN 45
Less a supernatural horror than a philosophical argument about America's inability to find peace Brooklyn 45 is not the ghost-tastic joyride I had hoped it would be. Geoghegan does a good job of fleshing out exactly what is that haunts each of these people individually, I just would have appreciated a little more ghost haunting.
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