Review by Sean Boelman
Brooklyn 45 is the latest film by cult-favorite horror filmmaker Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here). Clearly a labor of love, it boasts a poignant and effective script and strong production values that go far beyond what its budget should have allowed, giving it a chilling and effective atmosphere.
The movie follows a group of five best friends who gather together at the request of their host to perform a seance to attempt to contact his deceased wife, only for them to realize they may be haunted by something else. It’s a very cool premise, but Geogehegan doesn’t take the easy route, instead opting to use it to weave a complex morality tale.
Although the film is being released on Shudder, it’s not what one would normally think of as a horror movie, but instead more of a “supernatural drama.” That’s not to say that it isn’t suspenseful, though. The situation is very discomforting in an almost Sartre-like manner, and there are a few moments — especially in the third act — that are downright disturbing.
In the film, Geoghegan asks some interesting questions about the ethics of war. Although this isn’t a particularly new theme, Geoghegan offers a novel approach to it. It’s also clear that he is drawing some comparisons between the xenophobia and prejudice experienced by those at the time with that being experienced by people today, and it works quite well.
One of the highlights of this movie is its ensemble, which makes sense given the fact that it plays much more like a chamber drama than a typical genre film. The legendary Anne Ramsay is fantastic here, giving a very subdued performance in a role that offers a ton of subtlety and nuance. However, even more impressive is Larry Fessenden, who is finally given the role he deserves to show just how good his chops are — as his turn is absolutely devastating.
Geoghegan’s character work in the movie is extremely strong too. Since it is such a small ensemble, it thrives in its intimacy. Viewers will feel like they are getting acquainted with every one of the group — which makes it all the more complicated when the film starts going into the moral ambiguity of their actions.
The movie also boasts very impressive visuals. Even though it is entirely set within the confines of one Brooklyn brownstone, we feel fully immersed in the world that Geoghegan crafts. The production design is intimate and detailed, as is the costume design, transporting viewers back to post-WWII New York.
Brooklyn 45 might not be what many viewers are expecting, but it’s absolutely impressive nonetheless. Strong performances, immersive visuals, and sharp dialogue allow this chamber piece to be captivating and effective.
Brooklyn 45 is screening at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 10-18 in Austin, TX.