The Scary of Sixty-First (2021)
Written by Dasha Nekrasova and Madeline Quinn
Directed by Dasha Nekrasova
One of the pieces of cultural lore that has rippled through people’s minds has been the revelations surrounding Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein was a native Brooklynite whose first professional job was teaching at the Dalton School while lacking a college degree. Odd, right? Eventually, he was dismissed from the school and entered finance, working at Bear Stearns. As Epstein rose in wealth and prominence, he began cultivating some extremely prominent acquaintances. There are some unknowns about what he did with this wealth & power. However, there are also some things we know for sure. It is an absolute fact that he engaged in the human trafficking of women and children and that they were used for his and his friends’ sexual gratification. Epstein’s life ended when he allegedly “committed suicide” while in prison, a situation whose details are deeply incredulous.
You may have heard of Dasha Nekrasova if you are someone of my age or younger. She was featured in an amusing InfoWars video, approached by one of Alex Jones’s minions, and asked about Venezuela. Nekrasova, outfitted in a Japanese schoolgirl outfit and sipping on iced coffee, was a random person on the street. She had anti-communist talking points hurled at her and calmly responded, an air of annoyance at the yammering idiot with the microphone, “I just want people to have healthcare.” Nekrasova was born in Belarus in the very final moments of the USSR to circus acrobat parents. They moved to the United States, and Nekrasova attended school in Las Vegas. Outside of this viral video, she has been part of the Red Scare podcast, a “dirtbag left” show in the same genre of podcasts as Chapo Trap House.
In the Scary of Sixty-First, Nekrasova and her co-writer Madeline Quinn take the facts about Jeffrey Epstein and his sharing of children with the U.K.’s Prince Andrew and turn it into a contemporary bogeyman story for Millennials and Zoomers. Young adults Noelle and Addie view an apartment on New York’s Upper West Side. There’s something strange about the place, and the realtor has an odd vibe about them. But the rent is crazy cheap, so they decide to sign the lease. Noelle finds a tarot card hidden in the apartment while Addie begins having horrible nightmares. A few days later, a mysterious woman (Nekrasova) shows up who pretends to be a realtor at first before confessing the truth. She’s an amateur detective investigating Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes, and she believes the apartment was owned by him. Addie is very suspect, while Noelle gets caught up in the excitement and eventually begins a sexual relationship with this strange unnamed woman. Drugs become involved, and everyone’s lives become consumed by conspiracy theories and possible truths.
The Scary of Sixty-First is part of a subgenre of horror, reminiscent of Repulsion or The Sentinel, focused on the haunted corners of contemporary urban landscapes. It used to be that most haunted houses were in the woods or in the middle of nowhere, but now densely packed cities have been with us long enough that they, too, can be haunted. You inject a figure as menacing and nightmarish as Epstein, and it’s a strong foundation for a horror story. While the film has been getting its fair share of accurate critiques over the laughable acting and oddly-paced plot, I think there’s something here worthy of discussion.
The relationship between Noelle and the unnamed woman, centered on conspiracy theories, is hugely relevant now. I won’t spoil the film, but these two become caught up in the frenzy & excitement of possibly being in the center of the drama. Near the end of the second act, it became apparent that this wasn’t necessarily about Epstein. Instead, he’s the conduit to the film’s examination of the broken American psyche. This is not a horror film made to produce jumpscares or elicit gasps from the audience due to excessive gore. The horror here is actually profoundly existential, the idea that we live in a haunted landscape. Beneath the surface of prosperity is evil; beneath the veneer of stability is a populace on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
If you watch this film and find yourself annoyed with the vapid, self-absorbed characters, well… that’s sort of the point. The “dirtbag left” does an excellent job of reflecting back on the people who populate their own hipster & liberal circles in ways that infuriate those types. They find humor & horror in the trend-chasing socialists who devote zero time to the work necessary to further those ideals and instead wear hammer & sickle t-shirts and find excuses not to engage in mutual aid. Their focus is on the spectacle of culture rather than the effort to improve things. They understand that Epstein’s evil was born out of his class position, but they engage in Hardy Boys-style buffoonish investigation tinged with drugs.
The Scary of Sixty-First is not a film for everyone or even a horror fan. It’s objectively bad, yet something fascinating is happening within it. This is a movie for this time, possibly to become an artifact of the insane social collapse we are going through. The seeds of paranoia were always there in America, but it seems it is in these times that it is coming to fruition. I would encourage you to watch The Scary of Sixty-First, wrestling past the rough presentation, to look at what is happening in the story’s themes.