'Brooklyn 45' Review: The Living Are the Real Terror (2024)

Ted Geoghegan isn’t messing around with his newest offering, Brooklyn 45. The man behind We Are Still Here has returned with yet another period piece, teaming up with Shudder for a 1940s horror tale that seems like it comes straight off the radio. In a world where Evil Dead Rise is soaking audiences in as much blood as it can manage, Geoghegan chooses to go small, telling the story of five war veterans who gather for what they assume will be a harmless night of drinking, only to find themselves caught in a mess none of them can unravel when a seance goes deeply wrong.

Of all the films I saw at the Overlook Film Festival, where I initially screened Brooklyn 45 back in March, it was far and away the best of the lot, employing subtlety to great use and pulling its scares not from the supernatural, but from the twisted humanity inside all of us. Taking place all in one room, Geoghegan is less concerned with jumpscares and beautifully terrifying monsters than he is with the humans that decide to play God, questioning whether that behavior began once they entered the room, or when they were conscripted for service. What looks like just another ghost story on the outside, as a result, reveals itself to be a deep, personal, and shocking rumination on grief and trauma, all contained within a single room of a Brooklyn brownstone.

It takes a certain tact to effectively pull off a chamber piece. Not only do you need excellent actors for the audience to latch onto, but you also need a truly phenomenal script, something that can compel your interest to remain despite almost no outside factors coming into play. It’s a tough game, but one that fascinates me, and Geoghegan manages to bring an extra factor in to amp up the stakes: Brooklyn 45 takes place entirely in real time, its ninety-two minute run mirroring the exact amount of time that passes in the film. It’s a factor that makes the first two requirements of a chamber piece even more essential — his script must manage to fill ninety minutes without slacking once, even if it demands that his characters experience an entire range of emotions in a short time, while also never shutting the hell up.

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'Brooklyn 45' Is One of the Year's Best Films, Horror or Otherwise

'Brooklyn 45' Review: The Living Are the Real Terror (1)

Geoghegan’s got the universe and humanity’s ever-dwindling attention spans working against him, but those odds are nothing in comparison to his airtight, fast-paced script. It builds tension without the need for massive set pieces, though the few he does employ are expertly crafted. We understand his characters’ inner lives almost from moment one, and that knowledge is vital to carrying the rest of the film, which spins out like a hydroplaning car and drags its audience along with it. Accusations are tossed like barbs, and words become even more deadly weapons than the gun passed around the room, always threatening to go off and wringing your nerves out like a wet washcloth.

It’s easy to see how one could adapt Brooklyn 45 for the stage, dialogue heavy as it is. Appropriately, it reminds me of the “talkies” of the era in which the film is set, when action was light but actors fired off dialogue at lightning speed. This film is the horror equivalent of His Girl Friday, the characters bouncing back and forth constantly from monologue to monologue — including a spectacular piece from star Larry Fessenden, whose grief-laden Lieutenant Colonel Hockstatter is the centerpiece of the action. But make no mistake, the rest of the cast flourishes as well. Each are given moments to shine when reflecting on the horrors of war, whether it’s Anne Ramsey’s Marla reliving her days as a military interrogator or Jeremy Holm’s scene-stealing Archibald Stanton as secrets are uncovered about what he did in the name of patriotism.

The Supernatural Horrors Are Just the Beginning of 'Brooklyn 45'

'Brooklyn 45' Review: The Living Are the Real Terror (2)

Each of these stories are wrapped up in the film’s supernatural frame story, about a seance gone wrong that leads each and every person locked in Hockstatter’s parlor to slowly devolve into madness. But while this film advertises itself as being about a seance, the undead elements of the story are really a conduit for Geoghegan’s real message, which is a focus on paranoia, specifically the kind born out of post-war trauma in a newly peaceful America. Geoghegan wrote the script with assistance from his late father, an Air Force veteran, and so the focus on five former military characters creates a sharp portrait of distrust, even among those who’ve known each other for decades. Trusted relationships begin to sour the second things go south, and there’s nary a ghost or ghoul in the film that can stand up to the vitriol the characters spew at each other, slowly unraveling the layers of despicable things each of them have thought, felt, and done over the course of the war.

It’s odd to call such an intense, personal, harrowing tale lush, but that’s what Brooklyn 45 feels like. Its brightly decorated parlor — lovingly cluttered in a way that would make an antique dealer’s heart soar — plays the perfect complement to its equally lush characters, though the well-crafted personas of a handful of deeply disturbed veterans aren’t necessarily beautiful the way their surroundings are. There’s an energy of old Vincent Price films about it, and I’m not just saying that because of Holm’s slicked back hair and mustache combo. It evokes the same sort of bone-deep chills, reflecting on how the choices we make affect those around us, and how questioning those choices can sometimes lead to a fate worse than death.

For all that this movie could’ve felt like a “COVID film” — one location, six actors, minimal necessary effects — Geoghegan’s creative power pushes it beyond the boundaries of what many consider chamber pieces to be. It's a film that will grab you by the hair and capture your attention without you even realizing it. For me, it’s the film to beat this year, easily taking the crown as my favorite scary movie of the last several years — even if all the scares come from the idea of what might happen when your closest friends turn on you.

Rating: A

Brooklyn 45 is now streaming on Shudder.

'Brooklyn 45' Review: The Living Are the Real Terror (3)
Brooklyn 45



'Brooklyn 45' Review: The Living Are the Real Terror (2024)


Is Brooklyn 45 a good movie? ›

'Brooklyn 45' may not be a "big" movie, but it's a powerful one. Every actor delivers an outstanding, engaged performance that helps maintain the palpable sense of dread and paranoia from beginning to end.

Is the film Brooklyn based on a true story? ›

No, “Brooklyn” is not based on a true story. However, it is adapted from Colm Tóibín's novel of the same name, which was inspired by the experiences of Irish immigrants in the 1950s.

What is the message of the movie Brooklyn? ›

A big theme that Brooklyn covers is culture differences and roots. The film sandwiches Eilis' experience in America with her life in Ireland. Throughout most of the film we mostly see Eilis' internal conflict, her struggle to adapt to the change of culture, and her deeply missing her family.

Where was Brooklyn filmed? ›

Brooklyn had three weeks of filming in Ireland, most of that on location in Enniscorthy and Curracloe Beach. There were four weeks in Canada and just two days in Brooklyn itself.

What time period is Brooklyn set in? ›

The plot follows Eilis Lacey, a young Irishwoman who immigrates to Brooklyn in the early 1950s to find employment. After building a life there, she is drawn back to her home town of Enniscorthy and has to choose where she wants to forge her future.

What illness did Rose have in Brooklyn? ›

One day while Eilis is working she learns from Father Flood that her sister Rose has died in her sleep from a pre-existing heart condition. She has to return to Ireland to mourn, and she secretly marries Tony before she leaves.

What is the movie about an Irish girl coming to America? ›

“Brooklyn” follows Eilis' (played by Saoirse Ronan) journey and experience as an Irish immigrant. She originally goes to America for a job opportunity, and then falls in love with Tony (played by Emory Cohen). Eilis plans to stay in America until her sister unexpectedly passes away.

Is Brooklyn a good movie? ›

Although maybe not the most memorable movie for a 10 year old–which is when I first watched “Brooklyn,” directed by John Crowley with cinematography by Yves Bélanger–this was a good Valentine's Day rewatch now at age 20 because I could relate more to the film and its themes.

Is Brooklyns Finest a good movie? ›

Excellent Filmmaking, Excellent Cast, Excellent Performances & Excellent Cop Thriller. Brooklyn's Finest is expertly directed by the excellent Antoine Fequa (Training Day, Shooter, The Equalizer 1&2, Olympus Has Fallen) this guy is one of the greats of suspenseful action thriller Cinema.

Is 45 years a good movie? ›

45 Years offers richly thought-provoking rewards for fans of adult cinema -- and a mesmerizing acting showcase for leads Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.

Does Brooklyn have a good ending? ›

Eilis ultimately makes a choice that reflects her growth, independence, and understanding of herself. She decides to return to Brooklyn after her extended stay in Ireland to reunite with Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), the young Italian-American man she fell in love with before her departure.

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