‘Brooklyn 45’ Review: A Little Something to Lift Their Spirits

A group of World War II veterans unwisely perform a séance in this ambitious yet airless supernatural thriller.

By Jeannette Catsoulis

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“Brooklyn 45,” a claustrophobic mystery with horror-movie flourishes, plays out on a December night in 1945 in a Brooklyn brownstone crammed with military memorabilia. The home belongs to Clive (Larry Fessenden), whose wife died some weeks earlier and who has invited a few of his closest World War II comrades for what they believe will be a cheering-up session. But when the well-oiled Clive insists on performing a séance to contact his late wife, the group grasps this isn’t the sort of spirit-raising it had in mind.

Less whodunit than who-done-what, the plot (by the director, Ted Geoghegan) unfurls in morality-play monologues that expose the characters’ biases and bigotries. Everyone has a story, and a transformative arc: Marla (Anne Ramsay), a bombing survivor with fearsome interrogation skills; her partner, Bob (Ron E. Rains), a deceptively meek Pentagon clerk; Archie (Jeremy Holm), a closeted war hero and possibly a criminal; and the bloodthirsty Paul (Ezra Buzzington), a uniformed xenophobe still running on battlefield fumes.

As the séance progresses, Geoghegan uses the paranormal puffery (self-lighting candles, gooey ectoplasm, and worse) to drag the invisible wounds of war into the light. Imprisoned by a locked room and the deceased’s paranoid demands — expressed through her increasingly deranged former husband — the alarmed friends spiral into confessions and accusations. The demons within them are more destructive than any the séance might have unleashed.

An ambitious period piece given an appropriately vintage look by the cinematographer Robert Patrick Stern, “Brooklyn 45” is overlong, repetitive and at times wearyingly stagy. The actors, though, can’t be faulted, convincingly turning unappetizing characters into broken people trying to move on from a war that keeps pulling them back in.

Brooklyn 45
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes. Watch on Shudder.

Brooklyn 45

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