Panic Fest 2023: Brooklyn 45 Is My Best Of The Fest

Image courtesy of Shudder

If your number one idol is cast in a film helmed by a very impressive name in the genre, you’d get pumped too. When I first learned Ted Geoghegan’s newest film Brooklyn 45 was going to star Larry Fessenden I had that feeling I used to get as a kid the night before Christmas. The only trouble was I had to wait a while, and that feeling gets uncomfortable after a while. But then Panic Fest came; my Christmas day. I wanted to save this film for the end of my coverage for a specific reason. There were many great films to grace the lineup of Panic Fest this year, as per usual, some films that I’ve even put on my top 100 list. One of these films has to be my favorite. Brooklyn 45 is my best of the fest.

Sometimes the behind the scenes stories are more fascinating than the actual film, sometimes those stories are just as impactful as the film itself. I don’t want to take this whole review to summarize the press notes, but I think taking a look at the conception of a film like adds a new layer to understanding it. Brooklyn 45 started as a four-page treatment before flourishing into the spectacle it is today. Finding himself at a crossroads, writer/director Ted Geoghegan turned to his United States Air Force veteran father. Though his father was not a writer, he helped Ted with everything from how the veterans in this film would talk and carry themselves, as well as going over proper ranks and military terms. This was the catalyst Ted needed to complete the script. Come January 2019 the script was finished. Michael called Ted to tell him he couldn’t wait to see the movie…the very next day he passed away.

Brooklyn 45 follows five World War II veterans, best friends since childhood. They all convene at the house of Lt. Col.Clive Hockstatter (Larry Fessenden) on a cold winter night with the hopes of helping their lifelong friend cope with the recent loss of his wife. When Hock reveals his plans for a seance, the friends question him, but eventually, give in to his plan. What they didn’t expect was that ghosts are all too real, and Hock may have more than just a skeleton in his closet.

One of the most impressive aspects of Brooklyn 45 is how it is more than a horror story. The script has elements of comedy, romance, and drama. It is definitely a horror film, but one of the most unique takes on the genre I have seen in a very long time. Period pieces aren’t really my favorite, which was the only hesitation I had going into this film. Brooklyn 45 uses the setting to fuel the characters rather than just having a film take place at a certain time. Our five veterans, still fresh from the war, have incredibly xenophobic views toward the German people. They drop the word kraut with extreme malice and hate over and over again, though rightfully so. Where their xenophobia becomes too much is how, to some of these veterans, every German is a Nazi. Ted Geoghegan crafted a well-rounded script. He was able to tell multiple stories at once, sometimes without having some utter a word. Brooklyn 45 weaves a tale of war, sorrow, and horror while trapping us inside Hock’s uniquely decorated parlor room.

The group of WW2 veterans stand around the body of their dead friend
Image courtesy of Shudder

I don’t think there is a single bad performance in this film. Obviously, I think Larry Fessenden is the best actor, but that might just be a personal bias. Marla Sheridan (Anne Ramsay) would probably be runner-up for best actor for me. Her character is well-written, and Ramsay finds the intricacies of Marla and works them into her performance. Marla is a former Nazi interrogator, and we’re told she was the best of the best. Ramsay finds the pleasantness of Marla, the Marla that made such great friends, but when it is necessary the interrogator in her can rear its ugly head to the surface. The horror of this film is wonderful, but the scariest moment is when we see the true Marla materialize. My runner-up for favorite character would have to be Mr. Archibald Stanton (Jeremy Holm). Stanton has the wildest character arc. He’s going to be going on trial for a possible war crime, and some of his friends will be taking the stand as character witnesses. I hope he doesn’t do anything to piss his friends off!

In concept, Brooklyn 45 doesn’t feel like it should work, but it works all too well. A lot of the anxiety that bleeds through this film is in part to the (majorly) single set. I was shocked when I learned this was a setpiece, it looks too lived in. The walls are covered in actual Yank Magazine covers from the ’40s, framed newspaper clippings from the time, and hundreds of authentic pre-1945 photographs. Taking these worldly people and trapping them in a single room seems almost cruel to the characters. Extreme props to the set designers and decorators to create what feels like a truly authentic and period-perfect set.

The other shining star of this production was special effects supervisor Brian Zurek. Knowing this was going to be a supernatural film I wasn’t expecting as much gore as we got. While it’s not over the top in a nasty or mean way, the blood used feels purposeful and necessary. Also, there is an absolutely insane practical effect used. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was gnarly! From what I was reading through the press release, Zurek created the supernatural entity practically by utilizing dual plates. If there’s one thing clear it’s that every aspect of this film was handled with the utmost love and respect.

Films like Brooklyn 45 show the true passion filmmakers have. Every aspect of this film feels handcrafted to perfection. Hell, even the press release was one of the most intricate detail oriented press releases I’ve ever witnessed. With this film being released on Shudder I’ll be curious to see how the reception is. Will this film work for everyone? Probably not. But a film like this will find its audience, and that audience will appreciate Brooklyn 45 for the wonderful film it is.

Brooklyn 45 will be haunting Shudder soon, so grab a glass and your favorite Kentucky whiskey and sit back for this haunting tale.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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