Panic Fest 2023: Brooklyn 45 isn’t your typical Christmas ghost story
It’s the classic yuletide tale we've all come to know and love: Five friends, still feeling the psychological damage of World War II, come together (in, yes, 1945) to share a drink or two, reminisce, and summon the dead.
This story is part of our coverage of Panic Fest 2023. Read more from our film team here.
It’s springtime in Kansas City, but for just over 90 minutes on April 14th, Panic Fest attendees were transported to the winter holidays thanks to writer-director Ted Geoghegan’s latest feature, Brooklyn 45.
It’s the classic yuletide tale we’ve all come to know and love: Five friends, still feeling the psychological damage of World War II, come together (in, yes, 1945) to share a drink or two, reminisce, and summon the dead.
Over the course of an hour and a half we are introduced to former interrogator Marla the Merciless (Anne Ramsay), her meek, Pentagon pencil-pusher husband Bob (Ron E. Rains), braggadocious Major Arch Stanton (Jeremy Holm), zealous patriot Major Paul DiFranco (Ezra Buzzington), and Lt. Col Clive Hockstatter (frequent Geoghegan collaborator Larry Fessenden), all of whom served the United States in the crusade against the Axis powers. It’s Hockstatter’s first Christmas since his wife Susan chose to end her life, and he’s asked his closest colleagues to help him bear the weight of the cold, lonely holiday season—and contact his wife’s spirit from beyond.
As the seance begins and the tone shifts towards the mysterious, the tension builds slowly and steadily—Brooklyn 45 is a masterclass in pacing. All four of Clive’s guests are skeptics at first, until the radio turns on and off seemingly of its own volition. And what’s that mysterious thumping coming from the closet? And wouldn’t you believe it, there’s Susan’s ghostly arm, rising out of the table in a fog.
Much like Geoghegan’s previous ghost story We Are Still Here, Brooklyn 45 has much more to offer than a mere seance. Over the film’s runtime, we watch the main characters grapple with their own ghosts—some literal, like Susan Hockstatter, but others far less straightforward. Stanton, accused of war crimes, spends the evening frantically clinging to the belief that he is a good man. DiFranco must reconcile his fervent xenophobic America-first mindset with the unpalatable (to him) truth that he is descended from Italian immigrants. Grief and guilt are the most ominous ghosts here.
Brooklyn 45 asks questions just as relevant in 2023 as they were in the 1940s: How do you continue to love your friends when they do the unthinkable? Where is the line between belief and lunacy? This is intentional; in a post-screening Q&A, Geoghegan remarked, “If [the movies] don’t feel timeless, there’s no point in it being a period piece.”
From the script to the production design, the cast to the sound direction, Geoghegan has created an immersive, thrilling, spooky cinematic experience. A less capable filmmaker might struggle with trying to translate a ghost story/stage play/escape room to the screen, but as the gorgeous credits began to roll, I wanted to rewind the film and watch it all over again, immediately.
Brooklyn 45 will be streaming on Shudder in early summer 2023. This story is part of our coverage of Panic Fest 2023. Read more from our film team here.