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The Scary of Sixty-First ★★★★

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Director: Dasha Nekrasova

Cast: Betsey Brown, Madeline Quinn, Dasha Nekrasova and Mark Rapaport

Released: Berlinale 2021

As the opening credits begin in Dasha Nekrasova’s directorial debut, The Scary of Sixty-First, you are transported into the old video nasties. Early faints Polanski films flow through buildings drenched in celluloid colours and accompanied by a synth score from the Giallo’s of old. Her eye-opening titles set the tone for a debut like no other.

The film follows two mismatched roommates who rent an apartment in the Upper Eastside. There is a strange aura about the place, but little did they know the apartment was once owned by the notorious paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. As the story unfolds, one of them becomes possessed by one of his victims. Things are about to take a sinister turn.

While paying homage to cinema gone by, Dasha Nekrasova gives her modern take on the films that shock and scare us. This is quite a ballsy subject matter to follow and fits well within the video nasty genre. She sets a precedent from the beginning as our protagonists clearly shouldn’t be living together. The friction they have intensifies this possession horror. Nekrasova’s free-flowing camerawork floats around like a spectre as she plants the clues. Nothing is as it seems until the introduction of Addie, who is investigating the Epstein case. Noelle takes an interest in her research, and she drifts away further from her roommate.

As The Scary of Sixty-First unfolds, we see a massive change in The Girl played by Nekrasova. Her possession is of a tortured soul, and scenes of sexual depravity ensue. Her mind became warped by her abuser, and The Girl is now facing this reality. In one scene that almost feels straight out of Żuławski’s Possession, we see her pleasure herself outside Epstein’s former home. These unhinged moments are a testament to Nekarsova’s vision as she doesn’t shy away from the trauma in the hands of a predator. In these moments, the camera moves sporadically, the editing is tense, and the colourisation is drenched in neon.

Dasha Nekrasova controls her vision with great composure and never loses sight of her vision. At times it feels like an Abel Ferrara film as it flows through the New York streets, and at other times it channels Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day. Unfortunately, the New York indie filmmaking can be too much. The hipster lifestyle, while always welcome, felt a bit forced in some segments, but it doesn’t hinder the experience at all.

This bold filmmaking will rattle some feathers between the conspiracy theories behind the Epstein scandal to the harrowing accounts of his victims. Deeply maniacal and a breath of fresh air within horror.

Lover of all things indie and foreign language. Can be found rambling on YouTube at times!

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