By day Ted Geoghegan works to help raise awareness for independent movies as a film publicist. In his other time Geoghegan is one of the most exciting writers and directors working in indie horror. His previous directorial features, We are Still Here and Mohawk, have demonstrated a diverse range; Geoghegan’s third film, Brooklyn 45, is no different.
Set in Brooklyn in the year 1945, Brooklyn 45 chronicles the events of a post-war seasonal reunion of a group of friends. Each member of the party was part of the war effort, several involved in extracting information from the Nazi enemy. The gathering is meant as an opportunity to relax now that the war is over, and also to reminisce about one member of their number who has recently passed, Susie. Though the night begins as planned, Susie’s husband Clive (Larry Fessenden) has a strange request for his friends that leaves them all fighting for their lives.
In a switch up to the quiet melancholy of We are Still Here, and the rage of Mohawk, Brooklyn 45 is a glorious chamber piece. Full of paranoia, allegations, mistrust, and miscommunication, Brooklyn 45 has all the best elements of a great cabin fever story. An unforeseen event leaves the group trapped inside Clive’s apartment. Watching the friends turn on each other is fascinating. Home truths are spoken, revelations burst forth, and it is clear that even if they make it out, their friendships will be forever changed. At the same time as squabbling amongst themselves and airing long bottled grievances, Brooklyn 45 has a clever escape room riddle hook to properly suck in the viewer.
The backdrop of World War II is an important component. Much more than just another story tying itself to the war to sell itself to a larger crowd, Brooklyn 45 has something to say. It uses the world event to open up conversations about prejudices, war crimes, and the dangers of having blind faith and loyalty to those in charge. 1945 might seem like a eon ago, but when placed on a historical scale, it is actually recent history. More than that, it has direct correlations with society as it currently stands today; the parallels between both time periods becoming increasingly more difficult to stomach.
Geoghegan’s tightly written script is expertly brought to life by his sextet of performers. Each cast member gets their own moment in the spotlight, but this is a true team-effort. The collaboration from the cast as a whole is what makes the performances sing. As each character moves into centre stage, those around them move in and actually listen. Acting is just as much about listening and reacting to their screen-mates and Brooklyn 45 is a textbook example of how it should be done. The intimate performances generate that same frisson of electricity that watching a great theatre show does. It’s exemplary work.
In his past work Geoghegan has shown a talent for shocking gore and horror elements, the burning ghosts of We are Still Here being particularly innovative. The brutality of the battles in Mohawk did similar exciting work, though it was the representation and casting that made that one particularly special. After an early dalliance, Brooklyn 45 keeps the more traditional horror elements at bay. Geoghegan instead allows the characters to marinate in the toxic atmosphere for a while, before eventually letting things get gory. And when Geoghegan does finally go for it, he gets weird and rancid.
From a visual standpoint, Brooklyn 45 adheres to the style of movies from the era in which the story is set, right down to the classic end credits. The costumes look authentic and the apartment looks like an antique. Thought, care, and attention has gone into every aspect of Brooklyn 45 and although it has been six years since his last directorial offering, Geoghegan has lost none of his spark.
A taut chamber piece, complete with killer performances and a toxic atmosphere, Brooklyn 45 is another triumph for writer and director Ted Geoghegan.
Brooklyn 45 was reviewed at SXSW 2023.