Brooklyn 45 takes place a few months after the end of WWII. Five veterans gather in a brownstone owned by one of them, Lt. Col. Clive Hockstatter (Larry Fessenden). His wife recently took her own life, having become paranoid that the German family a few doors down are Nazi spies. Coming to support him are hard-nosed Mjr. Paul DiFranco (Ezra Buzzington), accused war criminal Mjr. Archibald Stanton (Jeremy Holm), and interrogator Marla Sheridan (Anne Ramsay). Marla has brought along her husband Bob (Ron E. Rains), who is seemingly content not knowing the specifics of what she did during the war.
The purpose of the meeting is not just to catch up. “Hock” wants to hold a séance to determine if his wife’s spirit is still out there somewhere. The others reluctantly agree. I won’t divulge what happens from there, except to say that one of those German neighbors, Hildegard Baumann (Kristina Klebe), makes an appearance, immediately sending Mjr. DiFranco, Mjr. Stanton, and Marla back into suspicious mode. They try to figure out if Hildegard is indeed a Nazi as Hock’s wife believed, but there’s discrepancy in the conclusions the friends reach.
Brooklyn 45 is the latest film from Ted Geoghegan, whose We Are Still Here and Mohawk established him as a creator of bold, ambitious horror. This is his best effort yet. The movie has a supernatural component, with some spooky moments and a little blood and gore. That material is not dominant, though. It’s here to deepen the main theme. Aside from Bob, who never saw combat, the others have all committed unconscionable acts during the war – stuff they must reconcile with their self-perception as good people. The story is fundamentally about how war forces decent folks to do bad things, as well as how that creates psychological damage after the war ends. Related suspense is created from wondering if they’ve fully shaken off those old ways as they begin to deal with Hildegard.
The ensemble cast brings the central concept beautifully to life. Excellent performances help us see how these characters are at different stages of the process. Anne Ramsay is a particular standout, showing Marla’s reluctance to go backwards. That counters potently with Buzzington, who conveys DiFranco’s mindset that no German in America should ever be trusted. Dynamics of this sort run throughout the film, thanks to sharp, well-written dialogue that gives the actors a lot to work with, both externally and under the surface.
Plotting is another strength. Brooklyn 45 has at least six major surprises that caught me off guard. Every time you think you have the general direction figured out, Geoghegan introduces a new complication that spins events in a different direction. Each is precisely conceived and perfectly timed so they elevate the tension a couple notches. I couldn’t help but smile (as I was gasping, mind you) whenever one appeared. Not knowing what to expect from the film is part of its fun.
Even though the entire scenario takes place in a single room, Brooklyn 45 never feels stagey or boring. Quite the opposite, in fact. The movie pulses with nervous energy that keeps you on edge from start to finish. Afterward, you’ll definitely be thinking about these people, what they’ve done, and where they’re going from here. This is a stunning, thought-provoking chiller.
Brooklyn 45 debuts on Shudder June 9, 2023.
out of four
Brooklyn 45 is unrated, but contains graphic violence and strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.