“Brooklyn 45”

I was enamored by the sophisticated complexity of “Brooklyn 45,” writer-director Ted Geoghegan‘s supernatural period piece about a frightening séance in post-World War II America and the equally disturbing aftermath. This dialogue-driven supernatural drama about being haunted by the metaphorical (and literal) ghosts of the past has a wildly unpredictable story and substantial themes that make it a thinking person’s thriller.

Set within the confines of a first-floor parlor room in a Brooklyn brownstone, the film takes place over the evening of December 27, 1945. Recently widowed Clive (Larry Fessenden) has invited his best friends (and fellow wartime veterans) Archie (Jeremy Holm), Paul (Ezra Buzzington), Marla (Anne Ramsay), and Bob (Ron E. Rains) over for cocktails. Motivated by the grief of losing his wife, Clive asks his pals to participate in an impromptu séance to humor his curiosity. They balk at first, but then relent. What happens next is a supernatural event that finds them trapped with no means of escape, turns friends into enemies, and leaves the group in a predicament where violence may be the only option.

This is a sophisticated idea for a script, and the story is original and compelling. The screenplay has an intellectual slant that’s critical of everything from the military to religion, and it’s a narrative that turns friends into mortal enemies. The themes are complex and seem carefully chosen to accurately reflect the horrors of war, the trauma experienced by veterans, and the anti-German sentiment of the time. There’s a lot of depth to this story of xenophobia, agony, sins, and redemption, and it’s engaging from start to finish.

This is the kind of film that could be adapted into a stage play. Since it’s set in one location, the movie’s success relies heavily on the strength of its story and the lead performances. With an over-50 cast, it’s great to see a film give older actors such substantial roles, each perfectly suited to their character. The one-room setting is given a deeper richness from the excellent production design. The attention to detail in everything from the books on the shelves to the artwork on the wall seems to have been carefully chosen to complement the story.

The film’s terror lies in the talky, psychological horror of it all rather than the traditional shock and awe some may expect (there are moments that feature ghosts and blood, including some gruesome practical effects that will delight genre fans). The unexpected surprises really make the movie tick, so avoiding spoilers is highly recommended.

“Brooklyn 45” combines a great premise, strong performances, and an intellectually-minded script to create a deeply thoughtful historical thriller.

By: Louisa Moore

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