Jeffrey Epstein Horror Movie The Scary of Sixty-First (2021) Is as Trashy As Its Subject
Title: The Scary of Sixty-First
First Non-Festival Release: December 3, 2021 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: Dasha Nekrasova
Writer: Dasha Nekrasova, Madeline Quinn
Runtime: 81 Minutes
Starring: Madeline Quinn, Betsey Brown, Dasha Nekrasova
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Noelle (Madeline Quinn) and Addie (Betsey Brown) move into a bargain apartment in the Upper East side. What initially is reason to celebrate turns to something more sinister as they uncover the history behind the apartment. After a visit from a mysterious woman (Dasha Nekrasova), they learn that the apartment was one of many used by reviled child sex trafficker/predator and former socialite Jeffrey Epstein. As they dive deeper into the web of lies and secrets covered up by Epstein’s co-conspirators they find themselves falling victim to a supernatural presence lurking in their new home.
Bland and messy, The Scary of Sixty-First raises more eyebrows than it does pulses with its take on present-day conspiracy theories.
Centering the possession of a young woman by the ghost of a victim of Jeffrey Epstein is certainly a choice to make when creating a film. The Scary of Sixty-First decides to ask the bold question: how can a production co-opt the real-life horrors of a child pedophile ring and turn it into a supernatural horror film? They succeeded in creating their vision, but it fails to create a steady vision of why anyone should care about it. Viewers are conditioned to associate the delusions of the conspiracy theorists with the outlandish behavior shown by the possessed protagonist. Their blasé disregard for real life suffering makes two of the leading women appear just as callous as the man they are researching.
Commentary falls flat when it gets divorced from the bigger picture of its subject. While conspiracy theories are a large portion of the Jeffrey Epstein case, the much more horrific abuse of children, women, and working-class people is far more insidious than the rallying cries of a suspected child sex slave ringleader dying by suicide in prison. The very plight of the people used by Epstein and his associates is swept under the rug for a much more ordinary and hackneyed approach to lampooning chronically online nutjobs. There is absolutely a time and place for this story, but for something so delicate, it requires high quality filmmaking and storytelling to avoid those pitfalls. The Scary of Sixty-First makes a mockery of victims while offering nothing new to say about misguided people who spend their time reaching for wilder conclusions about mundane horrors.
The quality in the production is low, which makes getting through the film’s already brief runtime somehow more difficult than it should be. Erratic shots and tricky sound design give it a laborious feel. Low-fi cinema can be entertaining or innovative when done right. Unfortunately, The Scary of Sixty-First likely had to make do because of budgeting and the material itself not because the story called for it.
Low quality and high shock value bleeds into the acting as well. The leads have little charisma and lean into the more ridiculous aspects of their characters in an effort to maximize the uncomfortable nature of the film. Madeline Quinn’s Noelle finds herself talking in a baby voice while depicting her possession of a former sex slave as she desperately tries to get boyfriend to have sex with her. Even before her possession, she is given little personality beyond being a rich but self-righteous aspiring actress with a potential history of abuse. Sometimes it seems like the film is trying to hold a mirror up to those Jeffery Epstein hurt rather than those that were complicit as evident by Addie and The Girl’s response to Noelle’s transformation. It’s this kind of gross attitude towards victims that lends The Scary of Sixty-First to be no more than low grade and unentertaining exploitation cinema repackaged for the digital age.
Straddling tastelessness and poor quality, The Scary of Sixty-First makes the exploration of one of modern day’s most notorious conspiracy theories feel as ludicrous as it is pointless. Horrendous acting and atrocious dialogue make this indie horror a pain to endure. What’s worse is the convoluted storyline combines the real-life atrocities of Epstein with some bullshit cult conspiracy nonsense waters down the impact of his and his associate’s crimes against humanity. Horror is meant to explore the darkest parts of reality to reflect the true evils of society. Had The Scary of Sixty-First opted for a more coherent storyline with something more substantive to say, it likely could have done that.
Overall Score? 3/10