The Movie Waffler New Release Review - BROOKLYN 45 | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - BROOKLYN 45

New Release Review - BROOKLYN 45
A group of WWII veterans are roped into a seance by a disturbed friend.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ted Geoghegan

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

Brooklyn 45 poster

The title Brooklyn 45 might conjure up nightmarish images of a documentary about Williamsburg hipsters and their record collections, but fear not, the 45 refers not to 7" vinyl but to the year 1945. Writer/director Ted Geoghegan's single location chiller takes place in December of that year, with the world beginning to adjust to a post-war era filled with hope but haunted by ghosts, some metaphorical, some metaphysical, as we learn here.

Grieving over his wife's suicide, Lt. Col. Clive Hockstatter (Larry Fessenden) gathers several of his military buddies at his Brooklyn brownstone home. Marla (Anne Ramsay), who earned a reputation as a ruthless interrogator during the conflict, arrives with her new husband, "pencil pusher" Bob (Ron E. Rains). Joining them are the hawkish Major Paul DiFranco (Ezra Buzzington) and the openly gay Major Archibald Stanton (Jeremy Holm), currently facing charges of having committed war crimes, which he strenuously denies.

Brooklyn 45 review

The group find a very troubled Hockstatter, two bottles deep when they arrive, mumbling about how he let down his late wife by not believing her claims that the German family in their neighbourhood were Nazi secret agents. Hockstatter needs to know if there is life after death, and so ropes his guests into joining him in a séance. His supernatural queries are answered in the positive when a spectral apparition appears, which he believes represents his wife. Ready to join her, he blows his brains out. As if that wasn't enough for his friends to deal with, a German woman, Hildegard (Kristina Klebe), emerges from a closet, having been drugged and bound by Hockstatter days earlier.

What follows is a sort of cross between an Evil Dead era horror movie and the sort of moral dilemma dramas that were so popular in 1950s Hollywood. Remarkably, Geoghegan manages to combine these two very disparate genres in a very natural fashion. We're pulled into the human drama, but we're never jolted out of it when the supernatural elements kick in.

Brooklyn 45 review

In the manner of 12 Angry Men, Brooklyn 45 presents us with a group of people bickering over the guilt/innocence of another party, in this case Hildegard. Is she really a Nazi spy or simply a greengrocer's daughter who came to the US with her family seeking a better life, as she claims? Initially the divide is evenly split, with the two majors presuming her guilty and blaming her for provoking their friends' suicides, while Marla and Bob believe the woman's story. Of course, we bring our own political biases to the table, but the element of Nazism lends an uncomfortable ambiguity. If Brooklyn 45 were set today and Hildegard was a Muslim, or if it were set in the '70s and she was Vietnamese, there would be no doubt that she's innocent, but a filmmaker might be willing to portray a German woman as a Nazi, which keeps us guessing throughout as to her level of innocence. It's a clever subversion of the traditional setup of the sort of liberal Hollywood dramas to which Brooklyn 45 owes such a debt, and Klebe plays the pivotal part in a manner that makes it difficult to figure out if she's telling the truth or simply trying to worm her way out of trouble.

Geoghegan initially presents us with a group of characters that seem stereotypical, almost cartoonish. With his carved from granite face, Holm evokes Bruce Campbell, and as we watch him smile at an American flag when he enters his friend's home, it's hard not to laugh at such an over the top portrait of blind patriotism. In his buttoned up uniform, DiFranco resembles the hawkish, narrow-minded villains of everything from Clark Gable in Run Silent, Run Deep to Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, all snarling rage and xenophobia. As the drama unfolds, these characters become more three dimensional as their patriotic mascara begins to run and secrets are exposed.

Brooklyn 45 review

Geoghegan's ensemble are a well-drilled unit, delivering performances that draw on the sort of larger than life acting style that was popular in the mid 20th century before the likes of Brando and Dean started mumbling their way to stardom. Yet the performances never feel parodic, rather respectful of a lost era of drama with a capital D. Save for some moments of gore, Brooklyn 45 takes most of its visual cues from classic Hollywood as Geoghegan and cinematographer Robert Patrick Stern shun the washed out look of modern dark dramas in favour of a refreshingly bright presentation that reminds us primary colours aren't anathema to disturbing subject matter.

American cinema has been unwilling to criticise America's actions in WWII, and it's generally been portrayed as a black and white, good vs evil conflict. Kudos to Geoghegan for daring to go against the grain and suggest that Americans may have been every bit as bigoted as the Germans they fought.

Brooklyn 45
 is on Shudder from June 9th.

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