[Review] Brooklyn 45 [Panic Fest 2023]: Supernatural Ghosts Are Not the Only Things That Haunt

Writer/director Ted Geoghegan’s terrific Brooklyn 45 is a chamber piece film that addresses real-life horrors as well as otherworldly ones. With a gripping story and a master class in acting from its ensemble cast — filled with names familiar to genre-film aficionados — this feature is one that fear-fare fans of all stripes need to add to their must-see lists.

In Brooklyn 45, World War II has recently ended, but hatred toward the enemies of the United States in that war has not ceased for some in the group of friends gathered at the request of host Lt. Col. Clive Hockstatter (Larry Fessenden). His best friend Mjr. Paul DiFranco (Ezra Buzzington), Mjr. Archibald Stanton (Jeremy Holm), army interrogator Marla Sheridan (Anne Ramsay), and her politician husband Bob (Ron E. Rains) are the invited people, but there is tension among the men because Bob did not serve in the war and is looked down upon as a lesser man by the tightly wound DiFranco because of it, something for which Marla defiantly admonishes the major. 

Soon enough, Hockstatter makes his reason for the invitations clear: distraught over the recent suicide of his wife, he wants to hold a séance to see if there really is any sort of afterlife. His friends reluctantly agree, and we’ll leave the plot there so as to avoid spoilers. 

Suffice it to say that this is a horror movie — actually, it blends different genres — that does indeed deal with the occult, so fans of the genre will find plenty to admire with Brooklyn 45, including one particular scene that boasts some jaw-dropping practical effects work. Geoghegan’s film also treats viewers to engaging drama —  for example, Stanton is accused of wartime atrocities, with allegiances toward him changing as the plot thickens — and some mystery, with a good deal of suspense surrounding the identity of the Hockstatter family’s German-born neighbor Hildegard Baumann (Kristina Klebe). 

Brooklyn 45 is an extremely personal work for Geoghegan, who developed the screenplay with the help of his U.S. Air Force veteran father, who passed away the day after telling his son that he felt the script was complete. The themes of the films are tough ones to pore over, including grieving and loss, the atrocities of war and the stress that they cause, the complexities of friendship and love, and much more. Geoghegan explores them in mesmerizing form. 

BROOKLYN 45 (photo courtesy of Shudder)

The attention to period detail in the set design and wardrobe are both sharp, and the proceedings are marvelously captured by cinematographer Robert Patrick Stern. Set for the large part in Hockstatter’s parlor, the film gives the proper amount of a claustrophobic feeling. Indeed, the film could work tremendously as a stage play, but it wraps viewers up in its world so well that it never feels stagey. 

One of the main reasons for that is the outstanding work of Brooklyn 45’s ensemble cast of character actors. Fessenden as a man on the edge of sanity, Buzzington as a man who loves his country so much that he is filled with hatred, Holm as a proudly gay man at a time when such sexuality was more closeted than it would be in the future and who faces a new prejudice because of his wartime actions, Ramsay as the most level-headed of the group and who well knows about cruelty during wartime, Rains as a rather nebbish man who becomes the easy target of machismo, and Klebe as a woman who may or may not have a dark past are all fantastic, both when given moments to shine by themselves and when working with the other members of the cast.   

BROOKLYN 45 (photo courtesy of Shudder)

Brooklyn 45 has earned a solid spot on my list of top 10 films for this year, regardless of genre. Currently making waves on the film festival circuit, watch for its streaming debut on Shudder later this year. 

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Brooklyn 45 screens as part of Panic Fest 2023, which takes place in person from April 13–19, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri, and which offers a virtual fest from April 14–23. 

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.