Color, 2023, 92 mins. 38 secs.
Directed by Ted Geoghegan
Starring Anne Ramsay, Ron E. Rains, Jeremy Holm, Larry Fessenden, Ezra Buzzington, Kristina Klebe
Shudder (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (2.35:1, etc.) (16:9)

Horror fans with a taste for the Brooklyn 45bygone chills of stage plays and radio dramas have been in heaven in recent years with Brooklyn 45everything from retro ghost story stage productions to the popular podcast Tales from Beyond the Pale, but the big screen hasn't really caught up yet even in the age of A24 genre fare. An effective correction can definitely be found in 2023's Brooklyn 45, the third feature from writer-director Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here, Mohawk) and a spooky little chamber drama throwback to melancholy war-themed supernatural films like The Last Reunion and The Halfway House. In this case it also takes place in real time almost entirely in a single location, with a small ensemble cast really digging into their roles with gusto.

At a cozy brownstone apartment on the evening of December 27, 1945, several combat veterans and longtime friends -- Marla (Ramsay), Paul (Buzzington), accused war criminal Archie (Holm) -- reunite with the residence's owner, Hock (Fessenden), along with Marla's husband, Bob (Rains). Brooklyn 45Hock is still reeling from the suicide of his unstable wife and now wishes for all of them to Brooklyn 45take part in a séance to prove the existence of the afterlife, which proves to be successful and opens the door to a number of past demons that will turn the celebratory evening into a very deadly and tragic one.

A character study on multiple fronts as well as a twisty mixture of postwar thriller and spook show, Brooklyn 45 is a nifty balancing act that parses out its shocks with effective restraint. The small number of actors means each of them has to carry a lot of the production on their shoulders, and they all succeed while wearing some really great threads in the process. The dialogue sticks to the jargon of the era while working in universal topics in an unusual way, such as making one character gay among his friends but closeted to the outside world. On a technical front, the opening and closing of the film are framed at 1.33:1 a la 1940s Hollywood and British films with the remainder shifting to 2.35:1; it's a technique used before in everything from Galaxy Quest to multiple Wes Anderson films, and it makes sense here as a visual mood setter that will light a fire in the imaginations of any film buffs in the audience.

Part of the move by Shudder to go with its own original movies, Brooklyn 45 debuted on the streaming Brooklyn 45service in 2023 and made its way to Blu-ray in 2024 as the inaugural entry as a parter label with Vinegar Syndrome. Shudder can be highly erratic at times when it comes to video compression (as anyone who suffered through Anything for Jackson on there can attest), and this is a title that really benefits from being seen in better quality than the limitations of streaming can provide. As Brooklyn 45you'd expect it looks and sounds perfect with a restrained but effective DTS-HD MA English 5.1 mix (with optional English SDH subtitles), but the big twist here is the inclusion of a black-and-white version as well that's been completely retimed to look like a vintage monochrome feature (with more traditional film grain to boot). Geoghegan appears for a very packed audio commentary covering pretty much everything you could want to know about the making of the film including the fortuitous discovery of a Chicago locale for the main street, the moment of his own vocal cameo, his longstanding connections with several of the cast members, and the painstaking process he went through to make sure he got the details right about showing the impact of the aftermath of war. That last idea gets developed considerably as well in the featurette "Ghosts of the Past: The Making of Brooklyn 45" (30m16s), with the director and cast appearing in separate interviews chatting about their initial responses to the roles, the methods they used to get into the mindset of the characters, and the poignant process Geoghegan went through working on the film with his own veteran father. The disc also comes with an insert featuring extensive production notes from the film's gestation to its streaming debut.


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Reviewed on July 6, 2024