Eric’s Review: Brooklyn 45 (2023)

Fangoria! Woo!
Larry Fessenden, Ann Ramsay, and Ron E. Rains in Brooklyn 45

★★★★ out of ★★★★★

🩸🩸🩸 out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸 for horrific gun violence, some toture, and some crunchy re-ainimated dead.

Written and Directed by Ted Geoghegan

Brooklyn 45 is a drama-forward haunting period piece, a nifty mystery box of a film with a crackerjack script. World War II is over. Peacetime has settled in, but not all is right in the world of Lt. Colonel Clive “Hock” Hockstetter (Larry Fessenden) who is still grieving the loss of his wife Susan, the victim of an apparent suicide. He has summoned his most important former aides and officers, all friends since childhood: the by-the-books Major Paul DiFranco (Ezra Buzzington), Hock’s dashing gay triggerman, Major Archie Stanton (Jeremy Hom), his chief interrogator, Marla Sheridan (Ann Ramsay), and her husband, a pentagon pencil pusher, Bob Sheridan (Ron E. Rains).

They have been brought to Hock’s Brooklyn brownstone to execute a seance, in an attempt to connect with the recently deceased Suzie. Despite the misgivings of the arranged officers, the sloppy ritual proves successful, and a chain of events is unleashed that releases secrets from all of the assembled friends, including an imprisoned neighbor, Hilde Baumann (Kristina Klebe), whom Susie had suspected of being a Nazi spy.

Hock’s parlor becomes something akin to an escape room, as tragedy befalls the group, effectively locking everyone in until the ghosts that inhabit the house are satisfied. A horrible sacrifice is demanded, and the duty-bound officers, having survived the horrors and traumas of the brutal war, are asked to once again test their ethics and emotional fortitude. Each character has to come face to face with their failings, and the greater puzzle of escaping the parlor keeps changing and becoming more complex with each character’s secret revelations.

In interviewing Ted Geoghegan at the Overlook Film Festival, he explained to me that this was a film, years in the making. This was a collaboration that he had with his ailing father, a paralyzed war veteran, who guided the script, and ensured that the proper respect was given to all the veteran characters in the story. Ted’s father passed away during the production of the film, and in a lot of ways, this movie is a love letter from father to son.

Each character had a specific role in this intricate puzzle. Like an Agatha Christie story, each character comes to the table with more on their menu than is initially understood. As the characters begin to turn on each other, the veneer comes off of their reputations and alibis. Initially, the officers are confronted with what appears to be physical confinement, but soon it is clear that this is a hell vestibule of a spiritual makeup.

Larry Fessenden is Lt. Col. Clive “Hock” Hockstetter in Brooklyn 45.

This will be a highlight in Larry Fessenden’s acting resume. He and Geoghegan are good friends and neighbors in Brooklyn. Ted explained that Lt. Colonel Hockstetter was the first character developed, and it was written explicitly for Fessenden. There is an eight-page monologue that Fessenden had to deliver, as an explanation to Hock’s gathered friends as to why they were gathered, and it is a great bit of exposition. Fessenden, who has an extensive and celebrated production and direction career, has also been an actor in dozens of movies, but he usually gets bit roles that as Ted says “… ends up with him getting his head blown off!” Rarely does Larry get the opportunity to show off his acting prowess like this and he is a great centerpiece to this film.

As a whole, the movie truly benefits by focusing on an older, veteran (no pun intended) cast of stellar character actors. I found the two women, Ramsay and Klebe, particularly compelling. The character of Marla is unusual, as a high-ranking female officer of the era, a tough woman who also needed to be empathetic to be successful. Geoghegan noted that women often were interrogators, as the interrogated were more likely to crack by being coaxed out by a person of the opposite sex. That said, it is known and shown that she is capable of physical intimidation techniques as well.

Klebe’s Hilde Baumann is key to the story, though she gets introduced in the second act. She is a German immigrant who was tied up by Hockstetter, and manages to break out of her containment, explaining that Hock was looking to kill her because his wife Susie was convinced that she was a Nazi Spy, but nobody believed Susie. Hilde pleads her case to the group that she is innocent. A victim of xenophobia, and the suspect of a woman who was mentally ill. Klebe manages to play the dialogue lines a bit methodically, giving the suggestion that maybe she just might be rehearsing the lines. Her story becomes central to the fates of everyone in the room, and the audience is left with the characters guessing how truthful she is.

A line committed throughout the movie is “The War is over.” To which another character will retort “Says who?” EVERY character gets that line in the film. This is a line that carries double meanings. There is the obvious greater War in Europe, which is the implication, but with each “Says who?” it is suggested that this is in reference to each person’s inner conflicts and demons as well.

Brooklyn 45 is essentially a stage drama, with a single set, lovingly created in period 1945 stylings, and was designed to mask the scary. This was a comforting place. A homey place. And it looks wonderful, and Geoghegan masterfully weaves around the set to allow it to feel both fully resolved and tightly contained at the same time. From a design standpoint, the vintage radio, light fixtures, and, of course, the seance table were terrific showpieces.

Geoghegan leaves the characters somewhat ambiguous, with shades of gray, and so are the fates of the victims and the survivors. Were they good people? Were they honest? I left the movie with ideas on both, that I dare not share here, for fear of spoiling the film. And, I think it is one worth seeing in a group and discussing the conclusion and whether justice was done at the end.

You do need to know what you are walking into, with this movie. Yes, there are some extravagantly gory moments, but like many ghost stories, this is a drama, first and foremost, and then a mystery, and THEN a horror movie. Horror purists may blanch at the pacing, as it really has the pace and feel of a mystery, and I am completely down for that. The action beats have a pedestrian pace, but when the shocking moments come, they are resolved at just the right time, with just the right impact. The dialogue also feels like a stage drama in cadence and delivery, which feels right in this time setting. The moments shock more than scare, and the movie atmosphere exudes dread more than horror.

Brooklyn 45 is still on the festival circuit and will be released on SHUDDER later this summer. It is not rated, but would certainly receive an R rating for violence, some visceral gore, and plenty of profanity.

The War is Over. (Says who?)

A trailer has yet to be released, but there is a segment of the movie available on YouTube:

Categories: Festivals, ReviewsTags: , , , , , , , ,

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