The Scary of Sixty-First (2021)

DASHA NEKRASOVA

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB

USA, 2021. , , . Screenplay by Dasha Nekrasova, . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

Two roommates find a great, if odd, apartment in New York City and are excited to move in, but almost immediately upon taking over their new digs are approached with information about the unit’s dirty secrets. A mysterious woman (Dasha Nekrasova, who also directs and co-writes) tells them that she is doing research on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and that their apartment was once a fun pad for the disgraced billionaire and his friends to have secret rendezvous with their underaged victims.

While Madeline Quinn (the film’s other writer) teams up with Nekrasova to find out more information about Epstein’s crimes and the connection to this particular spot, her roommate becomes slowly taken over by what appears to be the spirit of a malevolent, problematic sexual force haunting the place, at first estranging her from her boyfriend (Mark Rapoport) before then driving her to total madness.

A real-life, recent headline-grabbing scandal is incorporated quite boldly into a thriller that expresses its anxieties through a tale touched with the supernatural, having as much to say about the pitfalls of Manhattan real estate as it does about the consumption of women’s bodies by those with money to spend. Allusions to Rosemary’s Baby can be made on both counts (the film’s opening credits liberally pay tribute), and there’s a healthy sense of mordant humour running through this film that allows the capricious story to play within the inspiration of Polanski’s work, but what’s missing is the joy with which that humour should be expressed.

Nekrasova elicits fine performances and edits, scores and paces her film seamlessly, there’s very little to indicate that it’s made on a small budget and she embraces her modest means by, instead of apologizing for it, emphasizing the grainy look reminiscent of as much Paul Morrissey in the seventies as mumblecore of the decade prior.

The problem is that it’s just not that interesting, and despite all the buzzing activity of women snooping through secrets or girls going wild, it never feels like anything actually happens beyond a group of intelligent friends deciding to stay busy by making a movie. If Nekrasova had something more to say about the Epstein scandal than to just reference it for the mere sake of attention (an attitude not far from her performance on her podcast Red Scare, which has left behind incisive and thought-provoking outside-the-neoliberal-box commentary and is now mostly politically incorrect expletives made just for fun), this could be a project worthy of her intelligence, but as such it feels like a rushed and phoned-in effort that is dressed up but has nowhere to go.

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