Brooklyn 45 (2023)

Director: Ted Geoghegan

Running Time: 92 Minutes

Starring: Anne Ramsay, Ron E. Rains, Jeremy Holm, Larry Fessenden, Ezra Buzzington, Kristina Klebe, Lucy Carapetyan

On a freezing December evening in 1945, a Brooklyn brownstone is the site of a friendly reunion between old friends. Arriving are Mjr. Archibald Stanton (Jeremy Holm), Mjr. Paul DiFranco (Ezra Buzzington), and military interrogator Marla Sheridan (Anne Ramsay) - the latter bringing her husband, Bob Sheridan (Ron E. Rains). They gather to support Lt. Col. Clive Hockstatter (Larry Fessenden), their friend who has struggled since his wife's suicide, although it soon becomes clear that Clive's invitation is not just for cocktails.

Anguish fills the reunion, as Clive worries that he did not do enough and feels guilty for not believing his wife's accusations regarding their German neighbour. While his friends have arrived offering support, a tension arises from protestations and disbelief at them performing a séance. Once the group are visited by literal ghosts of their past, the situations changes and they contend over an entirely different issue.

Important details regarding plot and character are slowly unveiled, as writer/director Ted Geoghegan crafts a creepy atmosphere within a seemingly inescapable room. Fear and paranoia lurk within this taut chamber piece, as revealed secrets and slipping masks raise tensions between these friends. Horrifying questions arise regarding war-criminal allegations, while Bob is repeatedly spoken down to by front-line soldiers due to his desk job.

When Paul and Archie first share the screen, a ritualistic show of machismo emerges as they share homophobic slurs and mock anger, yet their traditional ribbing masks discomfort from both sides. This undercurrent makes itself known when Archie sheds his blind loyalty, and Paul no longer turns a blind eye to what he perceives as imperfections. He weaponizes whatever possible about his fellow Major against him, turning as soon as he considers Archie to be no longer of use, highlighting how transactional he considers their friendship.

The most pervasive ghost felt is the war, whose aftermath is felt in every character. There's an uncomfortable truth to how soldiers who returned from such hellish conditions may never leave it behind, finding it easier to live in denial as they struggle to move on and face painful truths. There's a thoughtful moment when a character recounts how easily one creates an enemy, as innocent people are villainized merely for their different looks and accents, when so many just want to live better lives full of great opportunities. The xenophobic attitudes build to unnerving degrees, including a tense sequence when Marcia's hand is forced and she must utilize her skills.

A recurrent theme is how horrific actions are rationalized, be it for the sake of patriotism, with a shocking coldness, or as a way of lying to themselves. Characters want to believe they are still good people, yet worry whether their wartime actions have stained that. Geoghegan does not ask to condemn or forgive the people, only to see how the actions haunt those who committed them. The war may have ended, yet the ghosts it caused still linger in this exceptional feature.

Brooklyn 45 is available on Shudder from June 9th