The process of going to war changes those in battle. Often, soldiers must do things that go against their morals and principles. The environment of death and destruction creates toxic cultures where violence begets violence. Director and writer Ted Geoghegan amps up the tension in Brooklyn 45, a real-time horror movie about a group of soldiers back from the war. As they explore the occult, their bonds and ideologies are tested to the extreme.

Just before Christmas in 1945, Lt. Col. Clive Hockstatter (Larry Fessenden) invites his closest friends to his house. “Hock” recently lost his wife, and he struggles to find solace in the world around him. With the support of his friends Marla Sheridan (Anne Ramsey), her husband Bob (Ron E. Rains), subordinate Archibald Stanton (Jeremy Holm), and best friend Mjr. Paul DiFranco (Ezra Buzzington), Hock wants to perform a seance. However, after performing the ceremony, the night takes a drastic turn.

Brooklyn 45 succeeds at probing the psyche of those who go to war, but there’s a universal nature to the arguments on-screen. The things we do, and are often ashamed of doing, can be difficult to overcome. Yet the process of going through trauma can forever warp our minds. Hate can easily spread through a person, and once those concepts are implanted in us, can we find a way to look past our prejudices? While Brooklyn 45 focuses on uber-patriotism and anti-German sentiment in post-World War II America, the metaphors can be extended to many other groups.

Geoghegan lets the story unfold in real-time, allowing the tension to grow as philosophical arguments unfold. The interpersonal relationships come crashing through the discourse, and the longtime friends peel back the layers of their friendship. They hold small and big moments against each other, tearing into each other. The barbs are particularly upsetting and unveil truly horrific things done during the war. Geoghegan rightly asks whether the characters can leave the war behind them, even when they’ve returned to safe homes in Brooklyn.

The cast shows up across the board, with each of the members getting spotlight moments. Ramsey comes away as the most alluring performance, not only due to a physical transformation. Her control in every scene keeps the story level, and she commands the room when her moments arrive. Fessenden delivers a genuinely tragic performance. Kristina Klebe brings the most emotional role to the screen, forcing us to question every piece of information we receive as the audience. Her arrival shakes up Brooklyn 45, and ultimately helps become the engine that kicks it into gear.

Finally, the production design and costume design throughout Brooklyn 45 steal the show. This goes beyond soldiers displaying their war medals. Every piece of memorabilia on the walls feels personal and delivers the lived-in experience. Geoghegan shoots Brooklyn 45 in a way that allows for the rooms to feel claustrophobic. Yet, the team utilizes every inch of the room to its advantage.

While the supernatural element certainly comes into play, many might expect more horror elements to seep their way into the story. There are certainly some wildly violent and exciting horror set pieces. Yet Brooklyn 45 has a more subdued nature at times, focusing instead on the ideological debates. You will not get a gore-fest, but there is more than enough blood, violence, and horrific imagery to suffice. Geoghegan’s management of tone works extremely well within the story he’s looking to tell.

Alan’s Rating: 8/10

What did you think of Brooklyn 45? Let us know in the comments below! Shudder will release Brooklyn 45 later in 2023. Catch Brooklyn 45 at SXSW 2023.

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