SXSW 2023 Review: BROOKLYN 45, Ghosts Of The Past Bring The War Back From The Dead

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
SXSW 2023 Review: BROOKLYN 45, Ghosts Of The Past Bring The War Back From The Dead

It’s two days after Christmas, 1945 and the war is over, or at least it’s supposed to be. When Colonel Clive Hockstetter (Larry Fessenden) invites his old army buddies over for dinner, they all suspect it’s just a simple get-together for old times’ sake, but he has other plans. What follows will change all of their lives, and not for the better in Ted Geoghegan’s third directorial feature, Brooklyn 45. An examination of loss, regret, trauma, and the way that the past is never truly done with us, no matter how much we try to pretend it is.

Hock (Fessenden) has been something of a mess since his wife Susie passed on Thanksgiving. When his friends gather, it’s mostly to give him some support in a very difficult time. Joining him this evening are ace interrogator Marla Sheridan (Anne Ramsay, The Taking of Deborah Logan) and her Pentagon desk jockey husband, Bob (Ron E. Rains, The Onion), Major Archie Stanton (Jeremy Holm, The Ranger), and Major Paul DiFranco (Ezra Buzzington, Mohawk). Each of them has their crosses to bear, Bob’s position as the only non-veteran among them makes him a bit of an outsider, but for Hock, they’ll do anything.

Things take a dramatic turn when Hock suggests that they hold a séance to attempt to make contact with his beloved wife on the other side, and what begins as an act of pity as the friends acquiesce very quickly turns into something else altogether. Secrets are revealed, old wounds are reopened, and even though they left the battle field months ago, the war finds them in Hock’s parlor and it isn’t ready to let go.

Geoghegan has already made two complex genre staples over the last decade, the trauma-tinged haunted house winner, We Are Still Here, and the anti-colonial post-Revolutionary War-set action thriller, Mohawk. It’s clear by his track record as a director that he’s not interested in creating paint-by-numbers films, and Brooklyn 45 is another feather in that very impressive cap. Less of a horror film than an examination of the lingering effects of trauma with ghosts and some pretty impressive gore, Brooklyn 45 examines what happens when the ghosts of the past refuse to stay past.

Mounted much like a play in a single parlor location and all taking place in real time, Brooklyn 45 imparts a sense of intimacy to the spooky and increasingly tense goings on. A sudden turn from our distraught host, Hock, sends the entire party into a chaotic, unescapable limbo of fear and mistrust. A hidden guest joining the party (Kristina Klebe as Hildegard Baumann) ratchets up the tension and pits these old friends against one another. Tiny fissures in their relationships crack wide open, their own tortured pasts come flooding through, all while trapped together in Hock’s parlor, looking for a way out.

Geoghegan has a way of writing and staging this story that reveals his deeper interest in the psychology of these people. Everyone has their own traumas, yet through their service they are inextricably linked. Taking a cue from classic ‘40s noir and later Cold War thrillers, Geoghegan’s script is masterfully delivered by these titans of independent horror, many of whom are showing shades of their abilities that we’ve rarely seen. Fessenden in particular turns in a magnificently subdued performance as the despondent colonel looking for a sign that his beloved wife is still out there somewhere.

Though the single setting does limit what the camera can do, it is everywhere it needs to be to capture the energy and emotion of the film. The exquisite set takes up a lot of the slack, giving the audience a cozy, familiar setting where we can feel at home with these characters with whom we are trapped. And even though it’s less of a horror than many might expect, there are still plenty of truly horrific elements, and even a few splattery gross-out moments to keep the gorehounds happy.

The result of over four years of preparation, both pre- and during the COVID pandemic, Brooklyn 45 is a stunning film that is sure to win over fans who go in with open minds. I fear that the placement of the film as a straight ahead horror may leave some viewers a bit confused with the film as it exists, but that doesn’t take away from what in an incredible, heartfelt film.

Brooklyn 45

  • Ted Geoghegan
  • Ted Geoghegan
  • Anne Ramsay
  • Ron E. Rains
  • Jeremy Holm
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Ted GeogheganAnne RamsayRon E. RainsJeremy HolmDramaHistoryHorror

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