Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
Sometimes, it takes real self-control to save a film for the October Horror Movie Challenge. When Brooklyn 45 popped up on Shudder, it looked like exactly my kind of thing. The reviews I scanned were positive, and I’d enjoyed other films Ted Geoghegan had directed or written, such as We Are Still Here, The Ranger and Satanic Panic. I’ll also watch pretty much anything with Larry Fessenden. Plus, we’d just recorded a series of episodes about Spiritualism and Séances for The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, so the subject matter was on my mind.
Happily, however, I managed to hold out until October. And here we are.
Brooklyn 45 is currently available on Shudder in the UK.
Shortly after the end of the Second World War, a group of friends gather at the Brooklyn brownstone of Colonel Clive “Hock” Hockstatter. Each of these friends is connected by the war, either through serving together or via intelligence work, most carrying some form of trauma from their wartime experiences. Hock is dealing with the additional blow of his wife’s suicide, and he has gathered his friends to help him deal with this loss.
Rather than seeking moral support, Hock wants his friends to help him perform a séance. He has lost his religious faith, and believes this will reassure him that his wife still exists beyond the veil.
And, of course, the séance works. It wouldn’t be much of a horror film otherwise.
While this proof of the afterlife proves a transformative experience for Hock, its aftermath sets his friends against each other. When they discover that Hock has kidnapped his German neighbour, believing her to be a Nazi spy, old wounds from the war are reopened. And if all that weren’t bad enough, the séance itself remains unfinished, leaving the dead free to roam. Things are going to get messy.
In our recent discussion of Glorious on The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, we debated the efficacy of single-location films. While Paul argued that he found such constraints off-putting, I’m very much of the opinion that they can add a sense of claustrophobia that enhances the horror. Brooklyn 45 is a fine example of this.
While there are supernatural forces at work, much of the confinement results from the characters’ growing distrust. They find good reasons to stop each other fleeing what is obviously a terrifying situation. At no point does this feel contrived, and the characters’ bad decisions in pursuit of their own agendas turn the film into a pressure cooker of a story.
I’ve seen people mention Brooklyn 45 in the context of Spiritualism, but that doesn’t ring especially true. While it does revolve around a séance, not much appears drawn from actual Spiritualist traditions. What little it does incorporate is pure window dressing. This is not a complaint, however. The mock séances we tend to see in horror films are much less silly than their real counterparts, and the one portrayed here suits the story perfectly.
Brooklyn 45 is an absolute delight. It keeps its scope tight and uses its limited resources well. The single room in which almost all of the action takes place is gorgeous, filled with old photographs and period artefacts that make it feel absolutely real. Geoghegan uses the space dynamically, never letting the film feel stagnant. Even a small detail like the lime green wallpaper helps every scene come to vivid life.
One of the biggest surprises, at least for me, was that Brooklyn 45 isn’t a comedy. Between the colourful set, brisk trailer and playful film poster, I expected something at least tongue in cheek. Instead, we get a surprisingly powerful meditation on the trauma of war and the lingering prejudices it can birth.
That’s not to say that this isn’t a fun film — it’s fast paced, with crackling dialogue and performances that stay on just the right side of exaggerated. The growing conflicts between the characters build to breaking point and beyond. The few occasional moments of levity provide much needed releases for all this tension.
While Brooklyn 45‘s supernatural elements often take a back seat, they are potent and memorable when they come to the fore. This is a thriller as much as a horror film, and it rarely sets out to frighten. Even so, I can’t see many horror fans being disappointed. Highly recommended.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Dark August (USA, 1976)
- Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
- The Banishing (UK, 2020)
- Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
- Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
- Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
- Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
- You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
- No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
- The Sect (Italy, 1991)
- Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
- Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
- 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
- The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
- In the Earth (UK, 2021)
- Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
- Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
- Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
- Older Gods (UK, 2023)
- Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
- Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
- Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
- The Premonition (USA, 1976)
- Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
- The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
- Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
- Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
- Demon (Poland, 2015)
- Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
- El Conde (Chile, 2023)
- The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!