BROOKLYN 45 is one of the best films of 2023. I say that not because I know Ted Geoghegan but because it's true. While nominally a horror film, BROOKLYN 45 is instead something greater. It is a dark sad look at the evil we do while telling ourselves we are only doing it for good reasons. It's a film where our best efforts go terribly wrong and reveal us to be broken and damaged humans/monsters. It is also one of the finest meditations on the effects of war on the human psyche, both of those in the trenches and at home, that I have ever run across in any medium.
The film takes place on December 27, 1945. The war is over, a group of friends go to the home of one of their number nominally to spend the night consoling their host about the suicide of his wife on Thanksgiving morning six weeks earlier. As the group begins to relax things turn for the spooky when a seance is suggested. Everyone is uncomfortable but they go along...until weird things begin to happen, and someone ends up dead. Things go even more wrong when they find they can't leave the room they are in.
The film sports a killer cast of usually supporting actors (Anne Ramsay, Larry Fessenden, Jeremy Holm, Ezra Buzzington, Ron E. Rains, Kristina Klebe) all lifted to leading roles. Because of the great cast the film does what any great film should do out of the box, and that is give us people we care about walking around on the screen. We kind of like everyone. They come on screen fully formed people, so we understand the choices they are making. It’s a singular achievement to have so many great actors in what are truly incredibly demanding roles.
Also, by not having any big stars in the film we can't second
guess what's going to happen. We can't work out plot twists based on who is in
what role. We just have to go for the ride.
While there are ghosts and hauntings in this film, I would not really call it a horror film. This is a film that is about the effect of the war on good people. It’s a mirror held up to society about how we see each other and how when the war ends, we don't just stop hating. It’s a film that reveals misguided hatred can live on after we die. If you need proof that this isn't a horror film, consider that probably at least an hour of this film has nothing to do directly with scary stuff. Seriously, most of this film is about things other than the supernatural. This is a film that deals with the trauma of what happened to these people. It shows how the need to follow orders and do the “right thing” wrecked them inside as they did the most terrible things imaginable. This is an examination of the national psyche of a country at war. And it is not just about World War 2 but about Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Israel, or any other conflict, regardless of who is fighting. BROOKLYN 45 is a way more than just a horror film and as such transcends simply being categorized as a horror film. When was the last time you saw a film that dealt with hatred on the home front in a real and visceral way?
That isn't to say that the film isn't scary, it is at times. However, what the film is is incredibly tense and suspenseful. The bad things that are happening and the discussions being had are about the evil that we do to each other are in their way scarier than the ghosts. (And yea, there are some ghostly scares)
This is filmmaking of the highest order. Ted has taken what should be a single room stage play and turned it into a highly cinematic film. It begins with changing aspect ratios. When the film starts and ends it is in Academy ratio, and then goes widescreen when the action gets to the room. And while we never leave the single set, it never feels claustrophobic or limited in scope, instead Ted gives us the world with the in the confines of a single room. The dialog brings the world inside to us. The war, the family down the block and other references open things up simply by turns of a phrase. Watching the film, I ached to see it on a big screen in a theater instead of a small monitor.
Several years ago, I sat down with Ted to talk about the films he made and the
films he was hoping to make. It was interesting talk that haunted me because
there was something about what Ted was saying made me feel like he was going to
be going really big places. It was clear he knew exactly what he wanted to do
and more importantly what he could do with cinema. Everything he told me is
here in this film. Having spoken to numerous filmmakers over the years I had
never seen a filmmaker be so clear eyed about what he was doing and why. As a result, I am not being hyperbolic when I
say that BROOKLYN 45 is the place where a great filmmaker steps front and
center for all to see. Trust me, Ted will have an Oscar or two and
numerous other awards very soon.
If you doubt me watch the craft of this film. Watch the shot choices, the use of sound, the shifting aspect ratio, the background details, the writing, the characters, the sense of history and place, everything that makes up this film is top of the line. Seriously half an hour into the film I wanted to see the film again just so I could start to focus on the details in the film. Hell, I wanted to walk around in the place where it was taking place because it was so perfectly realized.
I love this film. I love how it feels like an old film but is very clearly a modern creation. I mean only recently would anyone dare make a film suggesting that anyone in WW2 did anything bad or well into war crime territory. When was the last film you saw that dealt with how people couldn’t let go of hatred just because victory was declared.
And yet again I have to say that this film is great because the film is about more than just ghosts.
While I know Shudder bought the rights to the film and will be screening it, I am frightened that the audiences there will either be turned off by the talk, or fail to see just what a monumental film this is. This film should be in the Oscar mix because of what it really is doing, which unfortunately will get lost behind the ghosts.
Simply put this film is a masterpiece, It is a fucking awesome piece of cinematic art of the highest order. It’s a film destined to be looked at for decades to come.