Review by Sean Boelman
Jeffrey Epstein has become the ultimate running punchline for every joke, and Dasha Nekrasova has made the ultimate gag with her feature debut The Scary of Sixty-First. Having no shortage of style to spare, this may not be a good film, but it’s a fun time to watch in all of its unabashed wackiness.
The movie follows two roommates whose lives are changed forever when they move into a new apartment harboring a dark secret. For much of the first half, this is pretty standard haunted house fare with a retro-inspired feel, but once it goes off the deep end in revealing its hand, that’s when it starts to feel unique, for better or worse.
One of the most frustrating things about the film is that it seems content with just being “that Jeffrey Epstein horror movie”. And don’t be fooled — it absolutely delivers on the insanity of that premise — but it would have been nice to see them do something interesting or worthwhile with it rather than just an exercise in style over substance.
The movie also struggles to settle on a good tone. It’s always unclear as to whether we are meant to be taking this seriously or if we should be laughing at it. The latter seems more likely to be the case, but that then poses the question of why we should be laughing at the situation of people who were real-life victims of abuse.
There is also the issue of character development in the film. Neither of the main duo is particularly likable. We are just thrown into this friendship and expected to believe that it has been around for years without being able to see why it worked the way it does. So when it starts to fall apart, it’s no wonder, because we never saw what was holding it together.
The acting in the movie isn’t very good either, but it does fit the vibe which the film is clearly emulating. This is meant to feel like a trashy horror flick from decades ago, and that it does, although the decisively modern twist of it being a Jeffrey Epstein ghost story creates a massive disparity that is pretty hard to overcome.
That said, the movie is enormously successful on a visual level. Nekrasova shows a lot of potential as a new director, and while her style largely consists of homages in this outing, her understanding of how to recreate this mood bodes well for her future. And the effects in the film hit that right balance between campy and unsettling to create that mood.
The Scary of Sixty-First is definitely a bizarre movie, but that is absolutely part of what makes it so watchable. It’s a recreation of a particular style, albeit with a modern twist, and with a premise that one just has to see to believe.
The Scary of Sixty-First is now in theaters and hits VOD on December 24.