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Ted Geoghegan’s “Brooklyn 45” could be a ’40s teleplay read over outdated radio sets — you can practically hear the static crackle behind line readings. The World War II era chamber piece confronts our obsession with fighting ghosts and humankind’s refusal to move onward, all contained to a New York City brownstone. There’s a heavy emphasis on conversations between old war buddies that draw away from the horror influences of a botched paranormal ritual, as Geoghegan lays the atmosphere on thick while the camera pans around a veteran’s cluttered memorabilia den. It’s a chilling story of the specters that haunt our memories, not the most fierce supernatural lock-in. Still, for those who latch onto dialogue-heavy stage play performances, “Brooklyn 45” speaks to the unshakable terrors of existence.

It’s December 27, 1945, and Lt. Col. Clive Hockstatter (Larry Fessenden) has opened his home to four friends with ties to his World War II deployment. Ace interrogator Marla Sheridan (Anne Ramsay) and her Pentagon husband Bob Sheridan (Ron E. Rains), Mjr. Archibald Stanton (Jeremy Holm) and Mjr. Paul DiFranco (Ezra Buzzington) reminisce over drinks about killing Nazis. Then Hockstatter reveals the hidden agenda for their meetup — the hard-nosed colonel is still grieving after the suicide of his wife Susie, and he wants to try speaking with the dead. He sits everyone down for a séance to an array of disbelief and discomfort, and that’s where their problems begin.

“Brooklyn 45” embraces the creeks and thumps of haunted house formulas even though we never leave Hockstatter’s recreational quarters. There’s a card table, bar station, and rows of American military paraphernalia to suggest an inability to let go, but Geoghegan doesn’t let the otherwise open floor plan erase expected unease. Triggermen and ruthless women find themselves trapped in a limbo where locks devour keys or unbreakable windows bounce objects back, which increases the suspense of knowing what has to be done for their escape. It’s a moral dilemma uttered by an entity that wants nothing more than to stoke continued hatred, which becomes a militaristic commentary about the business of battle and those who are broken in the process — yet a few shaking closet doors and glimpses into nether realms makes it more than a stuffy talky.

Authenticity

Structurally, “Brooklyn 45” feels like a bookended horror narrative with two spooky pieces of bread and an overwhelming heap of dialogue meat. There’s a lengthy duration between when Hockstatter summons Susie (or something else) from beyond to the final effort against their otherworldly captor that turns the volume down lower. Geoghegan draws from tension presented by an unwanted guest (played by Kristina Klebe) that shifts from apparitions released via goo to an elaborate debate over the hatred harbored for outsiders who sound like our enemies in international conflicts. The script leaves viewers to interpret what messages march forward as Hockstatter’s platoon either fights or embraces their battlefield instincts within the safety of American borders, both for better and worse. Horror elements sometimes feel like an afterthought during the lengthy midsection standoff, stepping away from the initial conjuring setup for parlor banter stuck reliving wartime atrocities.

Geoghegan finds authenticity in his characters thanks to his late father’s script notes — once an Air Force veteran and U.S. History teacher — which is felt through the actors’ mannerisms. Larry Fessenden leads his co-stars into the fray as a welcoming host who bears his heartbroken soul, tenderly setting the stage for best intentions to turn dark. Anne Ramsay wields powerful glares as an interrogator who could break Nazis twenty more ways than her male soldier counterparts. Ezra Buzzington thrives as the coldly rigid bastard who follows orders no matter how harsh, and Jeremy Holm stands out as a gay man who laughs in the face of Uncle Sam’s bigotry. Ron E. Rains nails the skittish pencil pusher personality as he’s ribbed by troopers who saw combat. Whether they’re bickering about Hockstatter’s commands, waving pistols around, or bringing into question the atrocities committed in the name of nationalism, the ensemble provides.

“Brooklyn 45” condemns collateral damage and highlights the nightmarish hold of PTSD by turning the camera on Americans who’ve completed their tours, returned home, yet can’t shake their battlefield paranoias. Ted Geoghegan goes to painstaking lengths to recreate not only the physical representation of New York City in 1945, but the lo-fi media trends of ’40s programs. There’s a stagey style that feels like an off-Broadway chiller that won’t engage everyone, and there’s a lot of faith put in dialogue as a primary source of delivered tension, but that doesn’t sink momentum. Instead, “Brooklyn 45” is a tragic fireside reminder about how easily good men and women can be corrupted, whether by propaganda rhetoric or the ghosts of miseries past.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Read this next: The 31 Scariest Movie Scenes Ever

The post Brooklyn 45 Review: The Horrors Of War Come Home [SXSW 2023] appeared first on /Film.

/Film – Brooklyn 45 Review: The Horrors Of War Come Home [SXSW 2023]
Author: Matt Donato
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March 15, 2023

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