Paranoia. Lies. Deceit. Ghosts?
Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here) returns with their latest (and best!) film to date, Brooklyn 45. As is the filmmakers M.O they have more on their mind than just your typical horror film, offering plenty of connections to our modern day societies own issues.
It’s December 27th, 1945, the first Christmas after World War II and a group of military friends Marla (Anne Ramsay), Hock (Larry Fessenden), Archie (Jeremy Holm), Paul (Ezra Buzzington), and Marla’s husband Bob (Ron E. Rains) meet in Hock’s study for a night of catching up, reminiscing and support for their friend who recently lost his wife. For these five individuals, the trauma of the past few years has changed them to their core beliefs. The fear of their neighbor being a Nazi, the horrors of war and the war crimes they may have committed all front and center in the quant parlor.
Throughout the first act, Ted is playing with the audiences anticipation of the Supernatural by instead building a boiler plate of characters and their secrets between one another. How well do these friends really know one another outside of the war? The economy of the screenplay is part of the genius on display, setting up a single location with five terrific actors and an outlandish scenario; what if one of your friends proved the other side existed and what if something supernatural had come through?
Geoghegan’s characters drip with authenticity thanks to his late father’s script notes, who served in the Air Force and was U.S. History teacher and whom the film is dedicated to. When the characters speak of their experiences in the war, it feels truthful and historic, all the while painful in seeing the emotional scars each character carries with them.
As they gather around the table we learn more about Hock and his deceased wife and that he has not been taking things very well. He’s gone off the deep end reading about the occult and how he could possibly connect with the otherside. He desperately wants his friends to help him connect with his deceased wife through a seance. They are reluctant but see the need in their friend and decide to comply.
Of course, we know the seance is going to not go as planned (when does it ever?) but we are given a touching and still creepy connection to the afterlife. The group is taken aback as a door behind them begins to bang. A ghoulish hand comes out of the middle of the table and tries to make a connection to Hock directly. They break the circle, leaving whatever they made a connection with stuck in the room with them. And then the horrors truly begin.
The set-up seems like it could easily become a classic haunted house film such as The Haunting of Hell House or a monster mash like Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell, instead Ted decides to keep the film firmly on the slow burn tension filled ride that has more in common with Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight than it does with any traditional horror film.
Cinematography Robert Patrick Stern captures the film beautifully, continually finding new ways to make the single location interesting and maintaining the film’s elegant timelessness. Brooklyn ‘45 is a huge step forward for a director who continues to pave their unique filmography and one of the more surprising films at SXSW. It’s not looking to be the scariest film of the year and it’s not screaming metaphors at the audience, this feels like a well told tale that might fit best in a collection of Stephen King short stories.