VIFF 2021 REVIEW: How ‘The Scary of Sixty-First’ (2021) Red Pills its Audience

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“Daring and oftentimes hilarious script that brings the body horror genre to our ultramodern nightmarish reality.”

Two young women lay on a bed together. The woman on the left has darker skin and brunette hair, laying on her side. She has one arm wrapped around the second woman, who is blonde and wearing a white collared shirt. Various cables can be seen behind them.
Image courtesy of Utopia

Content warning: strong sexuality, pedophilia, drug use

Imagine living in a world controlled by ‘Big Brother’ and the pedophilic elite, a world resting atop an abyss of dark magic and diabolism that is a breath away from cracking open. In Dasha Nekrasova’s directorial debut The Scary of Sixty-First, one does not have to imagine such— they are slapped in the face with the truth that this is the reality they live in, whether they are able to accept it or not. Taking place in modern-day New York City, college best friends Addie (Betsey Brown) and Noelle (Madeline Quinn) are apartment hunting and have lucked out on a gorgeous townhome in the Upper East Side that abides by their off-the-grid lifestyle— no proof of income, not paying taxes, etc. The apartment is still filled with the leftover belongings of its past tenant, and the realtor— who is creepy as can be— refuses to deal with it. The two ladies hardly care, considering they just scored a real estate deal that would make the entire cast of Girls have a riot.

The first act of this film can be enraging. The two leads are supposed to be long-time gal pals, but they have the chemistry of strangers acting opposite each other in a casting room. Their back and forth dialogue about their screwed-up parents and sexual shortcomings reads as if they’ve never had a conversation before. What’s missing is the natural banter and charm between the girls that is usually found in Nekrasova’s other claim to fame, the Red Scare podcast— a popular show where two women critique the culture, touching on hot topics, political struggle, entertainment news, and conspiracies. A lot of listeners, fans, and haters alike make up the audience for this film, and their standards for monotonous yet hyper-intelligent discourse are not quite met in the early half of the film. A subtle but important tonal switch comes with the arrival of director and star Nekrasova playing herself; correction, playing an unnamed stranger referred to as ‘The Girl’. She comes to the townhouse to warn the new tenants about its sinister past and former owner, billionaire deviant Jeffrey Epstein. With a briefcase full of newspaper clippings and Vyvanse prescription bottles, ‘The Girl,’ entangles Noelle in her search for the truth with cult-like persuasion— which mainly includes exposing the ‘Clinton Crime Family’. She claims she’s an investigator because the feds obviously can’t be trusted in this case. On the other side of the townhouse, Addie is showing clear-cut signs of demonic possession, and acts out in a way that is too illicit to even type out.

A young blonde girl wearing a yellow hoodie looks away from the camera. Her face is captured in close-up in an intense moment, teeth gritted.
Image courtesy of Utopia

It is around this point in the film where the paradigm shifts for the characters and the audience. The sometimes cringe-worthy and nonsensical first half makes up for itself by proving to be an ostentatious, deliberately provocative fable that refuses to take itself as seriously as the characters do. Nekrasova’s style as a new director really begins to shine through— individualistic in her own right but channeling the best aspects of filmmakers like Dario Argento, Vincent Gallo and, ironically, Roman Polanski, as well as obvious nods to films like Possession (1981) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999). The cinematography is mystifying and alluring to the eye, thanks to 16mm film and cinematographer Hunter Zimny. The score is a standout highlight, arguably the best technical part of the film— composed by Eli Keszler. Keszler is the Hildur Guðnadóttir to Scary’s Joker.

The script and its product will without a doubt have a select number of viewers in distress and distaste; the film is probably not for the faint of heart or politically correct. Too montage-heavy and onthenose with its plot devices and jump scares, the film’s faults still don’t take away from its beguiling and thrilling odyssey. Co-writers and co-stars Nekrasova and Madeline Quinn crafted a daring and oftentimes hilarious script that brings the body horror genre to our ultramodern nightmarish reality, where things like The Lolita Express and Little Saint James are no longer folklore.

Dir: Dasha Nekrasova

Prod: Lenny Vigden, Richard Tannenbaum, Alex Hughes

Cast: Betsey Brown, Madeline Quinn, Dasha Nekrasova

Release Date: 2021

Available on: December 17, 2021 in select theatres, on Shudder