Structurally, “Brooklyn 45” feels like a bookended horror narrative with two spooky pieces of bread and an overwhelming heap of dialogue meat. There’s a lengthy duration between when Hockstatter summons Susie (or something else) from beyond to the final effort against their otherworldly captor that turns the volume down lower. Geoghegan draws from tension presented by an unwanted guest (played by Kristina Klebe) that shifts from apparitions released via goo to an elaborate debate over the hatred harbored for outsiders who sound like our enemies in international conflicts. The script leaves viewers to interpret what messages march forward as Hockstatter’s platoon either fights or embraces their battlefield instincts within the safety of American borders, both for better and worse. Horror elements sometimes feel like an afterthought during the lengthy midsection standoff, stepping away from the initial conjuring setup for parlor banter stuck reliving wartime atrocities.
Geoghegan finds authenticity in his characters thanks to his late father’s script notes — once an Air Force veteran and U.S. History teacher — which is felt through the actors’ mannerisms. Larry Fessenden leads his co-stars into the fray as a welcoming host who bears his heartbroken soul, tenderly setting the stage for best intentions to turn dark. Anne Ramsay wields powerful glares as an interrogator who could break Nazis twenty more ways than her male soldier counterparts. Ezra Buzzington thrives as the coldly rigid bastard who follows orders no matter how harsh, and Jeremy Holm stands out as a gay man who laughs in the face of Uncle Sam’s bigotry. Ron E. Rains nails the skittish pencil pusher personality as he’s ribbed by troopers who saw combat. Whether they’re bickering about Hockstatter’s commands, waving pistols around, or bringing into question the atrocities committed in the name of nationalism, the ensemble provides.
“Brooklyn 45” condemns collateral damage and highlights the nightmarish hold of PTSD by turning the camera on Americans who’ve completed their tours, returned home, yet can’t shake their battlefield paranoias. Ted Geoghegan goes to painstaking lengths to recreate not only the physical representation of New York City in 1945, but the lo-fi media trends of ’40s programs. There’s a stagey style that feels like an off-Broadway chiller that won’t engage everyone, and there’s a lot of faith put in dialogue as a primary source of delivered tension, but that doesn’t sink momentum. Instead, “Brooklyn 45” is a tragic fireside reminder about how easily good men and women can be corrupted, whether by propaganda rhetoric or the ghosts of miseries past.
/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10