Dasha Nekrasova, USA 2020
Two roommates move into a new apartment in the Upper East Side. It is a huge place, but the price is surprisingly good for New York, so they take it. Unfortunately, it seems as though the reason for the cheap rent is because it is where Jeffery Epstein took his victims. Even worse, it appears as though the whole apartment is haunted by one of the victims, and soon enough one of the roommates finds herself possessed. Needless to say, increasingly bizarre events continue to unfold thereafter.
With its mumblecore aesthetic and obvious sexploitation, THE SCARY OF SIXTY-FIRST wants to shock audiences. In many ways, Nekrasova accomplishes this task, purely by creating a film which is simultaneously dull, inauthentic, and bizarre that it certainly makes an impression, even if it is perhaps not a particularly good one. The feel of the film is extremely pretentious, the storyline manic and incomprehensible, and not one character feels real. Not one piece of dialogue actually feels like the way human beings speak. When characters begin to act “possessed” by Epstein’s young victims, the film diverges from being just a mess to being something that feels exploitative and disgusting. At no point does it seem as though Nekrasova is trying to respect the victims, she is instead profiting off of their pain by using it to fuel outrage for her film, or even worse, make a joke about it. This is of course all hidden behind the veneer of film literacy with references to giallo films and 70’s psychological horror. Unfortunately, that does little to counteract the repugnant nature at the core of the film.
THE SCARY OF SIXTY-FIRST is one of those film festival picks which was made simply due to the potential for controversy and media, and I suppose, it has succeeded in this goal. However, the result is that it does little for the reputation of the Encounters section or for the director whose entire vision, and perhaps ethics, seems to have been lost in her grasping quest for relevance. Do yourself a favor, skip this film.