By Nicole Veneto
This isn’t so much a movie as it is a micro-budget prank, and I must respect the hustle Dasha Nekrasova is pulling here even if it’s not in good taste.
The Scary of Sixty-First, directed by and starring Dasha Nekrasova. The film will be released theatrically in LA on Dec. 2 and in NY on Dec. 17 — and then on digital/VOD on Dec. 24.
The closest thing I can compare The Scary of Sixty-First to isn’t Eyes Wide Shut, The Tenet, or any of the Italian giallos writer-director-star Dasha Nekrasova pulls lighting cues from, but Tom Green’s infamous antifilm Freddy Got Fingered. Granted, nobody jerks off a horse or is sprayed with gallons of elephant cum, but Nekrasova’s directorial debut does feature a young woman possessed by a thirteen year-old sex-trafficking victim furiously masturbating at the doorway of one of Jeffrey Epstein’s former Manhattan residences. Said woman also spends a lot of time trying to shove Prince Andrew paraphernalia up her vagina. My point is that, like Freddy, Scary spurns the idea that it’s a real movie to be taken seriously, and that audiences and critics who do so are being trolled.
Nekrasova, who currently plays Kendall Roy’s crisis PR rep Comfry on Succession, is better known in the online sphere as “Sailor Socialism” for her viral 2018 take-down of an InfoWars correspondent at SXSW, and one-half of the podcast Red Scare. She and co-host Anna Khachiyan (who appears as a Ghislaine Maxwell doppelgänger) banter in cool vocal-fry about pop culture and politics. This isn’t Nekrasova’s first foray into controversial waters — while it’s frequently lumped in with other “dirtbag left” podcasts like Chapo Trap House and TrueAnon, Red Scare is frequently criticized for allegedly platforming reactionary viewpoints and discussions. (Two of their most high-profile guests include Steve Bannon and, ironically, Alex Jones, though the jury is still out as to whether Bannon was a stealthy attempt at trolling on their part). To some, Nekrasova is nothing more than a vacuous podcaster who gets paid to hurl incendiary takes on liberal identity politics and contemporary feminism à la Camille Paglia. Nonetheless, I’m drawn to Nekrasova despite some of the questionable things she says online (Khachiyan more so). Still, despite going into Scary with a charitable mind, I’d be deluding myself and readers by calling this either good or subversively brilliant, because it isn’t.
This isn’t so much a movie as it is a micro-budget prank, and I must respect the hustle Nekrasova is pulling here even if it’s not in good taste. Although it received the Best First Feature award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, the film currently sits at a dismal 2.6 out of 5 on Letterboxd. Well acquainted with Nekrasova’s online persona and her acting career (Wobble Palace, Softness of Bodies, and the delightful Sunday Girl), I suspected that this was going to be more of an absurdist black comedy than a politically tinged horror film about pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein. And, having seen it, I can confidently declare that it’s the former, and even then I feel like I’m giving too much credit to what’s essentially a joke movie she’s made with her friends.
The film (?) opens with roommates Noelle (co-writer Madeline Quinn, who throughout seems to be drowning in her own hair) and Addie (Betsey Brown, Assholes) touring a mysteriously low-priced apartment on the Upper West Side. As the greasy realtor shows them around, Addie notices things are awry: a mirror affixed to a bedroom ceiling, claw marks on the wall, separate entrances and complicated lock systems, mattresses with rust-red stains, and a maggot-infested roast in the fridge. Noelle brushes off Addie’s reasonable concerns as if they’re merely nitpicky personal inconveniences (“unlikable” doesn’t even begin to describe Noelle’s character, and it doesn’t help that Quinn delivers all her lines in the same monotone cadence). The two have an obtuse conversation about victimhood wherein Noelle claims Addie revels in being a victim because she was molested by her wealthy father as a girl. As the two girls settle in, a strange woman (Nekrasova) comes knocking at their door claiming their new digs was one of Epstein’s flophouses where he kept underage girls for ritualized sexual abuse.
Within hours of the unnamed woman’s arrival, Noelle plunges into a rabbit hole of internet conspiracy theories and frantic Reddit-infused dialogue (on Epstein’s “suicide”: “It’s redpilled a lot of people!”), oblivious to the fact that Addie’s nightmarish dreams on their first night in the apartment have given way to the aforementioned demonic possession by a teen sex-trafficking victim. And this possession is made manifest in a scene that would give Tom Green the yucks. Noelle and the woman’s Vyvanse-fueled lesbian tryst is crosscut with Addie haveing boring sex with her “beta” boyfriend Greg (producer Mark Rapaport). In a high-pitched baby voice, Addie moans for Mark to fuck her like she’s on an airplane. He amuses her odd request, and then she begs for him to fuck her like she’s younger, and younger, and younger still. Her voice goes demonic: “Fuck me like I’m 13!”
For her part, Brown is committed to her ridiculously abject performance. She’s like Isabelle Adjani in Possession, though with an overlay of Belle Delphine writhing around making ahegao faces instead of miscarrying an eldritch monster in a Berlin subway tunnel. Nevertheless, some of the things Nekrasova has her do are pretty shameless. Epstein’s victims are still very much alive, so the decision for Addie to dress like Virginia Guiffre and suck her thumb like an infant feels incredibly tasteless. Then again, Nekrasova could just as well be aiming at the very concept of “good taste” as a bourgeois construct. Maybe, but maybe not. It’s hard to tell. All other parts of Scary are purposefully chintzy. Cinematographer Hunter Zimny shoots and lights the whole thing like a sketch show parody of Rosemary’s Baby as visualized by Petra Collins. There’s a lot of inanely funny dialogue (“Why does Ghislaine dress like a fucking nutcracker?” being my favorite) and terminally online people will find Khachiyan’s cameo hysterical.
Still, the things I do like here aren’t quite enough for me to merit calling this “good” by any measure of taste, and this is coming from someone who rented Freddy Got Fingered and Nekromantik (the movie where a woman fucks a corpse) from Video Underground together.
Whether you believe the official narrative that Epstein killed himself or suspect that there’s more to this heinous case than what the mainstream media tells us, it cannot be denied that there is something truly evil and corrupt at the core of the Epstein case. The man had ins with presidents, the Royal Family, tech giants, and even the creator of The Simpsons. Scary doesn’t probe at this heinous rot amongst the elite in any meaningful way, but Nekrasova’s debut is still worth exposing yourself to. It’s the most bizarre thing you’ll see all year and you’ll probably loathe it, but it is guaranteed that you’ll remember what you saw.
Nicole Veneto graduated from Brandeis University with an MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, concentrating on feminist media studies. Her writing has been featured in MAI Feminism & Visual Culture, Film Matters Magazine, and Boston University’s Hoochie Reader. You can follow her on Letterboxd and Twitter @kuntsuragi for weird and niche movie recommendations.