Tense War Horror Drama Brooklyn 45 (2023) Drums Up Suspense in a Classic Way
Title: Brooklyn 45
First Non-Festival Release: June 9, 2023 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Ted Geoghegan
Writer: Ted Geoghegan
Runtime: 92 Minutes
Starring: Anne Ramsay, Larry Fessenden, Ron E. Rains
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
War is hell. What comes after war then? Lives are either cut short or changed forever. Just because one side wins, doesn’t mean that healing has begun.
In Brooklyn 45, a group of friends tied together by their World War II service meet for Christmas dinner at one of their own’s home to celebrate the end of the war and mourn the loss of his wife. What starts as a friendly yet uncomfortable reunion quickly descends into chaos after Clive (Larry Fessenden) insists on performing a seance to contact his late wife Susan (Lucy Carapetyan). What happens next is a series of increasingly tense altercations that will test their friendship, character, and love for their country.
Post-World War II ghostly chamber piece Brooklyn 45 combines supernatural frights with existential suspense and terror.
Eschewing typical pitfalls of supernatural horror films, Brooklyn 45 tells a much more grounded story set against a memorable paranormal background in the chilly New York winter. After opening a door during their spur-of-the-moment séance, the group fails to close the door to the horrors that lurk beyond the veil. This is an apt metaphor for the greater story of how these former soldiers react to the fallout of the war. Their fight with their own, and each other’s, demons intensifies when they are presented with a new obstacle introduced shortly after the end of the first act. Their patriotism and their humanity are at odds with each other when they learn the haunting revelations of why they were called to the apartment. Now they must reconcile their beliefs with each other and themselves.
Confined to a single room for most of the film, Brooklyn 45 makes use of its incredibly tight space in an economical manner. Trapped by the demons unleashed from the séance, what once was a spacious living room apartment in a cozy Brooklyn brownstone becomes a pressure cooker for the volatile veterans. Much like a stage play, every corner is explored thoroughly, and vital set pieces are peppered throughout the space to allow viewers to guess how the chaos will play out. This intimate gathering allows their large personalities to clash as the tension magnifies and the reality of the situation sinks in further. It makes for an exciting watch, as the characters have nowhere to go but all the time to reveal themselves.
Brooklyn 45 relies on the strong performances of its excellent cast to distract from its notable absence of constant supernatural horror set pieces. Be it the calm self-assuredness of Anne Ramsay’s Marla or Ezra Buzzington’s take on the distrusting skeptic Paul, the cast make their characters stand out and work against each other seamlessly. Everyone acts differently to their supernatural entrapment, and this is where the tension begins to ferment. The most exciting transformations, however, come from Archibald and Bob. Jeremy Holm’s Archibald disintegrates from cocksure soldier to tortured soul dealing with the irreparable harm he’s caused in this world. His commitment to the dark depths of Archibald’s past, and future, more than likely, make for an endlessly intriguing character. Ron E. Rains fully commits to Bob’s weaknesses, namely his trepidation and impotency, to make his final act explosive in the most unexpected and satisfying ways. While two standout performances, every single member of the team gives it their all, which should earn them plenty of praise as an ensemble.
The horrors of war are timeless, and Brooklyn 45 reminds us of its futility and impact on society. Each of the veterans gathered in the apartment played actively did things that shaped the war. While their side won, what happened to their humanity? As their secrets, prejudices, and insecurities unravel, the film tightens its grip on the audience. The charm to Brooklyn 45 isn’t in the obvious answers it presents but in the journey its characters take when truly reflecting on their actions during the war.
Beyond this general sentiment, the idea of ‘the other’ is put to scrutiny. There is an enemy in every war, but does that mean every person who looks, talks, or thinks like the enemy is one? Brooklyn 45 showcases how humanity crumbles when forced to acknowledge how conflict changes people who otherwise have good intentions and emboldens people who want to inflict pain into doing terrible things. That is more haunting than whatever the average ghost tale can muster.
While it won't be for everyone, Brooklyn 45 is a gratifying, slow burn horror film that capitalizes on its characters and timeless story. What it lacks in jump scares and gore it makes up for in nail biting suspense and existential dread. Excellent performances, strong writing, and a clever use of space makes this claustrophobic horror drama a must watch for all genre lovers. If anything, Brooklyn 45 is a great reminder to check your biases, reflect on your humanity, and question everything.
Overall Score? 8/10