Brooklyn 45 (2023) Movie Review – A slow-burning ghost tale that rewards the patient

A slow-burning ghost tale that rewards the patient

From Ted Geoghegan, the director of the chilling We Are Still Here, comes this period spookfest that is currently streaming on Shudder. The movie is set in Brooklyn in 1945 (you could have guessed that from the title) and centres around a group of military veterans who assemble for a reunion after one of their group loses his wife to suicide.

The widower in question is Clive (Larry Fessenden) who has gathered his friends and former comrades together. It can be assumed that he has brought everybody to his home so he can get some much-needed companionship after the loss of his wife but as we and they quickly discover, his reason for this gathering goes way beyond his need for a support network.

Joining Clive is Marla (Anne Ramsay), a former interrogation agent with a special set of skills; her husband Bob (Ron E. Rains), who some in the group consider to be a bit of a weakling; Archibald (Jeremy Holm), who is suspected of being a war criminal; and Paul (Ezra Buzzington), a hard-as-nails army official who is best friends with the host.

The movie is set after the conflicts of World War II at a time when America was looking forward to peaceful times ahead. But the memories of the parts these individuals played in the war and the prejudices of some of them, mean ‘peace’ for this group of friends is hard to come by. A couple of them have secrets that they would rather keep hidden (you won’t be surprised to learn they don’t stay hidden for long) and at least one of the party seems regretful of the role they undertook in the war.

We get to learn more about each character as the story plays out and it’s the interactions they have with one another that are the best part of the film. There is tension in the group for reasons that we won’t specify here and hidden resentments that come to the surface in a brutal fashion as this haunting tale nears its conclusion.

The film is ostensibly about the horrors of war and the metaphorical ghosts of the past that haunt the various people in Clive’s parlour room. But as this is also a film that ventures into supernatural territory, not every ghost exists in their tortured imaginations. This becomes apparent after Clive reveals the real reason why he has invited them to his home. He wants to hold a seance so he can attempt to make contact with the spirit of Susan, his dead wife, and to determine whether or not there is an afterlife

Not everybody in the group is happy about going ahead with the seance. This isn’t because they are scared of what might be on the ‘other side’ or because they want to play traditional parlour games like charades!  It’s because some of them are doubtful that life after death exists. After what they have seen and been through during the war, it’s understandable that they might have lost faith in God and a possible Heaven. Clive himself is fairly sceptical but due to his overwhelming grief, he still wants to test the theory that there might be an afterlife as this is his only chance to be reunited with his beloved.

Cupboards start to rattle when the seance begins, the voice of another is heard, and a ghostly hand reaches up out of the table and spooks the lot of them. The group are understandably shocked by this turn of events but things take an even stranger twist when…well, we aren’t going to reveal much more of the plot here!

But here’s what we will say: don’t expect a traditional horror film akin to Ouija and Poltergeist and similar movies about the dead coming back to wreak havoc on the lives of the living. The true horrors in this film are those that belong in the human realm such as the acts that this unsavoury group have committed on behalf of their country.

Another horror is the bigotry that still exists amongst these old army vets which becomes apparent when an uninvited guest makes their presence known. The ugliness of their bigoted behaviour becomes abundantly clear when this war-weary group is then pushed into another conflict, albeit one staged in a parlour room and not on a desolate battleground.

At times the film is a little like a stage play, and this is largely down to the single-room setting and talky nature of the script. Spooky things do happen but regardless of the terrifying images that sometimes appear, the director always circles back to the characters of the story and the long and sometimes very bitter conversations they have with one another.

The actors all give excellent performances, which is a good thing considering the film is dialogue-centred. The characters they portray aren’t particularly likeable but they still dig deep into the souls of each to bring out their humanity. This ensures we have some sympathy for the people in this gathering, even though we are unlikely to condone their wartime actions.

There will be some people who will find this film to be too slow-paced. They will be put off by the lack of traditional horror elements and the shortage of spooky special effects. But for the patient viewer, who is able to withstand 90 minutes of conversation and a deep plot that doesn’t contain too many jolts of terror, this may actually be quite rewarding.

If you do want a traditional horror film, there are many titles we can recommend on Shudder. But if you’re looking for a film that has more to offer than supernatural frights and the types of plot twists that we have seen many times before in ghostly thrillers, there is a chance you might appreciate this one.


Read More: Brooklyn 45 Ending Explained


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  • Verdict - 6.5/10

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