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THE SCARY OF SIXTY-FIRST gets 5/10 Conspiracy mundanity


Directed by Dasha Nekrasova

Starring Madeline Quinn, Betsey Brown, Dasha Nekrasova

5/10

This is a very young film. It’s made almost entirely by young talent, it stars mostly young people, and the topics it covers are ones that have attracted the attention of mostly young folks. And maybe because of this, The Scary of Sixty-First is suffocated by a wealth of amateurish incompetence, not only in the stiff acting, but the unsubstantial developments in the story and its characters.

Two young New York women can’t believe their luck when they chance upon a nice apartment in a nice Manhattan area for an affordable price. It seems too good to be true, and it turns out to be. Just after moving in, they find out the apartment used to be owned by Jeffrey Epstein – along with a mysterious red stain on a bed-sheet, this gets the girls’ imaginations going, wondering what terrible things have happened in a place like this.

These concepts here seem hugely modern – it’s hard to recall any other film that touches upon the Epstein conspiracy, his murky legacy of sex trafficking, or even a film that uses the term ‘red pill’ in this kind of context. But these new concepts are developed only as far as they’re initially set up, so they go nowhere. What we get instead is some retro horror, with cinematography and acting that harks to the likes of Brian dePalma’s work from the 70s and 80s. Some of the shot choices in this latter part of the film are quite clever, and there’s some good use of the 16mm film this is shot on. And the acting, although horrendously stiff and unsure at first, does improve in this part, particularly when one of the flatmates feels possessed by the apartment.

The plotting of this conspiracy is ridiculously threadbare, as the film becomes less concrete in its conspiratorial speculations and becomes more interested in the esoterica (healing crystals and all). And then it soon becomes tired of that and introduces a lesbian relationship, just ‘cause. It, too, goes nowhere. There’s not too much to juggle, but the film is a brisk 85 minutes, and it just doesn’t spend enough time on any one aspect of this paranoia to be developed satisfactorily.

This directorial debut comes from Dasha Nekrasova (who also stars and co-wrote), who has had success with her podcast Red Scare, but a lot of the playfulness and unapologetic bitchiness that makes her social commentary there so fun and engaging is sorely absent here. The lack of self-awareness, and even any life, makes this bloody story actually feel very bloodless and inhuman, as if we’re watching movie characters and not real people, as the vague plot travels aimlessly towards a ‘whatever’ conclusion.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

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