The Scary of Sixty-First

Started by eward, February 17, 2021, 04:14:43 PM

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The Scary of Sixty-First

by Dasha Nekrasova
with Betsey Brown, Madeline Quinn, Dasha Nekrasova, Mark Rapaport

In this feature debut by actor and podcast host Dasha Nekrasova, two mismatched roommates discover and relive the murky secrets of their new Upper East Side apartment. The film is as possessed as one of its protagonists: while she finds herself being taken over by the spirits of paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein's young victims, the film itself is haunted by Italian "giallo" movies and 1970s psychological horror. Both genres are reincarnated in a work that is well aware of its lineage and sets about challenging and demolishing each and every power and gender relationship. Consistently irreverent in tone, and reaching its peak during a memorable, psychedelic nocturnal trek to Epstein's New York residence, The Scary of Sixty-First exacts ruthless, mocking revenge on the perpetrator, while also taking us on a brilliant romp back through the history of film and the media. Cheekily reviving the tools, style, grain and excesses of cinematic works the director clearly knows and loves, her film puts on full view the imagery generated by one of the most renowned and revolting criminal cases of our time, one which was fed by internet culture, conspiracy theories, cults of personality and capital.


This whole project iz funny to me. I feel a bit competitive cuz of the giallo-sphere, but i truly hope it's good and not cringe. Shot on Super 16mm so you know I'm hype!!


bet she's seen Mario Bava tho

QuoteMario Bava made arguably the first giallo film in 1963, "The Girl Who Knew Too Much"

related to my ongoing assertion that the Bava family in some capacity or another is at the root of most if not all horror subgenres, with A Bay of Blood a near decade before Friday the 13th, and even somehow Lamberto Bava was assistant director of Cannibal Holocaust, plus his own directorial effort, Demons, a sterling entry within corporatized horror movies, and his relationship with Argento


I adore Mario Bava but if Dasha has seen one she's never logged it on letterboxd or brought it up on the pod. Not a dig, but I dont think she's a giallo-head. Berlinale iz probably more into that genre label.


oh like a generalizing Lynchian connotation


I guess we'll find out! Constantly surprised that she hasn't seen the NY Gialloz by fulci or de palmz but shes on Succession now so i guessed she's busy.


Um, copious name-dropping inbound -- seemz to at least be genre-pleasing for those into paranoid trippiness done DIY. Though I'm skeptical of all this mapping-out across decades of reference, that's on the writers/publicationz mostly. It soundz like a good mumblecore horror and I remain hype  --

Indiewire's Berlinale write-up (A-)

QuoteThere’s alchemy at work in Dasha Nekrasova’s debut film “The Scary of Sixty-First,” the kind that can turn what’s old into what’s new. Equal parts ’70s-style paranoia thriller, Polanski-infused apartment horror, “Eyes Wide Shut” homage, and empathetic critical commentary on the conspiracy theories craze, this hallucinatory pastiche is even more than the sum of its cinematically riveting parts. It feels like one of the few genuine attempts at understanding this dislocating moment and the many people who have lost themselves within it.

Addie (Betsey Brown) and Noelle (Madeline Quinn) are apartment-hunting in New York City. That alone is the stuff of horror. But in their case they find an ideal place right away — a shockingly cheap flat on the Upper East Side. They commit to it on the spot, despite an odd tarot card being left behind that suggests some ominous symbology. (Anyone who’s moved into a Manhattan pad and discovered a Pentagrama Esoterico sign on the wall and thought “What’s that about?” can relate.)

Variety's write-up

QuoteNeedless to say, commercial prospects for a microbudget horror comedy with pedophilia conspiracy on the brain are less than stratospheric. Yet “The Scary of Sixty-First” is sure to make waves on the festival circuit following its virtual premiere in Berlin’s Encounters sidebar, turning enough heads with its button-pushing, of-the-moment fury and no-sacred-cows satire to begin building a small cult of its own. For Nekrasova, hitherto best known as a co-host of the popular, similarly reckless podcast “Red Scare,” it’s a debut that, beyond its immediate topical heat, promises much for the future — backing up its big mouth with scrappy filmmaking verve and a genuine, devoted sense of genre. Giallo and grindhouse trappings mingle in a mumblecore framework, with overt nods to Kubrick and (aptly enough) Polanski thrown in the mix. Nekrasova’s own voice, however, cuts boldly through all that referential noise.

The clanging, doomy synths of Eli Keszler’s score make it clear from the outset that we’re at least partly in the grip of Dario Argento, though Hunter Zimny’s fuzzy Kodak lensing trades in muted millennial hues — while the New York we’re plunged into is pure Lena Dunham.


What Jeffrey Epstein did was vile. Why Dasha Nekrasova made a horror movie about it


When two young women score a suspiciously affordable, gauchely lavish apartment on New York City's Upper East Side, they can't believe their luck. Until they find out the abode was previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein — the disgraced financier and convicted sex offender who died in August 2019 while in custody on federal sex-trafficking charges.

What follows in Dasha Nekrasova's directorial debut, "The Scary of Sixty-First," is a spiral of conspiracy theories, obsession, the occult, drug abuse and likely insanity.

The low-budget thriller premieres this week, looking for distribution, at the virtual, industry-only Berlin Film Festival (an in-person event is planned for June). Nekrasova, who also co-stars as the mysterious stranger who informs the unsuspecting renters (Madeline Quinn and Betsey Brown) of the Epstein ties, co-wrote the script with Quinn.

Although never making light of Epstein's crimes, the film does transform the speculation and suspicions around his death into something that blends the ridiculous and the chilling. As Nekrasova said during a recent interview, "I made a horror movie because it is a horrifying thing."

Born in Belarus, raised in Las Vegas and currently living in New York City, Nekrasova, 30, has crafted a contrarian brand of cultural provocation and political critique as a co-host, along with Anna Khachiyan, of the popular podcast "Red Scare." Often referred to as part of the "dirtbag left" and affiliated with podcasts such as "Chapo Trap House," the show mixes left-wing political commentary and cultural criticism with guests that have included political figures Steve Bannon and Tulsi Gabbard, journalists Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald, philosopher Slavoj Žižkek and filmmaker Adam Curtis.

Nekrasova describes "Red Scare" as rooted in a "critique of liberal feminism," often seemingly aimed at provoking and offending more conventional "woke" sensibilities.

The filmmaker first gained attention through a viral video dubbed "Sailor Socialism." While at the 2018 South by Southwest festival to promote the movie "Wobble Palace," which she co-wrote and co-starred in, she was approached on the street by a reporter from the right-wing website Info Wars. Wearing a beret and sailor's top, with a cellphone in one hand and an iced coffee in the other, Nekrasova casually dismantled the reporter's pointed questions with lines such as, "I just want people to have free healthcare, honey."

Recently she's been filming a role for the upcoming third season of the Emmy-winning HBO drama "Succession." As to whether the politics of that show, a satire of an ultra-rich family that heads a media empire, aligns with her personal politics, she said, "Well, sure. It's a pretty scathing critique of the ruling class."

Tell me about the timeline of the movie. Both for the Jeffrey Epstein angle, which feels like it must have happened pretty quickly, but also making a movie during the pandemic.

We shot the movie in January of last year, so it was pre-pandemic. I started writing it shortly after Epstein's death in September [2019] with my writing partner, Maddie Quinn, who's also the brunette in the movie. And then it just came together very quickly. I think some might say it's maybe even a little bit underdeveloped, but if I had kind of dragged my feet, I don't think I would have been able to make it because of COVID. I think it's one of the strengths of the movie — it has this kind of momentum and it was clearly made quickly. ... Definitely if I had more time I could have maybe thought through certain choices more that were maybe more interesting. But I really stand by everything that I did do. And I think that the spirit of the movie and the momentum of making it does come across.

Why Jeffrey Epstein? What about both his life and his death did you find interesting to incorporate into a story like this?

Living in New York, it felt like a huge deal. And the way that the Epstein stuff sort of touched on a larger conversation around the ruling class, I guess I thought it was really interesting and compelling. It was born out of a kind of helplessness I felt in the face of these unfathomable powers and echelons of power. Maddie and I both were really just kind of obsessed with it.

And then how does his story become this sort of conspiracy-laden psychosexual occult thriller? Are those elements just sort of baked into the Epstein story?

Yeah. Those elements were developed out of wanting to infuse the movie with the visual vocabulary of the Epstein stuff. When it happened and all the photos and footage of him and Prince Andrew and [the island Epstein owned] and everything was surfacing, the island was really this site of profound psychological terror for me. I watched hours and hours of drone footage of Little St. James. And the conspiracy of it — my character says in the movie, "I'm not a conspiracy theorist. The only conspiracy is the one between the elites who depend on a permanent underclass for them to exploit." And that was sort of how it felt. But then the proliferation of that culture of conspiracy around Epstein, I also thought it was really interesting.

We had Adam Curtis on the pod recently and his new documentary series ["Can't Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World"] also touches on conspiracy. And we talked to him about how in lieu of people having profound and compelling stories to tell themselves about reality — which I think people are feeling increasingly alienated from — conspiracies ended up being generated because they're just more interesting. And I think [they] kind of get at the truth of what is really going on more than reality even does.

The movie makes an explicit reference to "Eyes Wide Shut," and there are elements of "Rosemary's Baby" and Italian giallo (thrillers). Are there any other references woven into it?

"Eyes Wide Shut" was really kind of a bedrock, not as a formal influence, but it was the 20th anniversary of "Eyes Wide Shut" that year [2019] as well. So it was very much kind of in the popular consciousness post-Epstein. [After] Epstein's death, there were memes that were like, "'Eyes Wide Shut' was actually a documentary." And that what Kubrick was trying to tell us in his last film about these secret societies has increasing relevance and bearing on our lives today. That was really something that I kept returning to.

I call [the movie] kind of like a love letter to Stanley Kubrick, because it's not formally very Kubrick-y, it's not very meticulous in the way that his films are, but it does pay homage, I think, to his worldview and a lot of his philosophies and ideas about power — that power is a very destructive and corrupt force. And that the reality that's portrayed in "Eyes Wide Shut" still rings very true.

There's a montage of a character's psychosexual breakdown that seems to be shot at the actual front door of Epstein's mansion in New York City. Was it?

Yeah, we shot it on East 71st outside his townhouse. Though the "JE," the monogram, they removed it shortly after his death. So we had to put that back to shoot that scene.

I found that scene very shocking just for being at that real location. Is it a creepy place to be?

Yeah. I had been there before, not inside, but I had gone there as sort of like a site in New York City. And I went there the day that he died. I lived actually very close to [the Metropolitan Correctional Center, New York]. So I went to the prison and then I went to the coroner's office because there was already all of this sort of conspiratorial stuff happening about the body and where his body was and if it was his real body. Then I went to the townhouse and then I went to the compound on 66th, this complex that his brother owns, which is also referenced in the movie. But yeah, it's got this huge, imposing door and all these creepy kind of satanic gargoyles. And it just feels like this really haunted place.

So what is your top-shelf Jeffrey Epstein conspiracy theory? And what do you think really happened?

Well I guess the real thesis of the film is about a kind of futility, about not having access to ever really knowing what happened. So I don't have a pet theory. I guess I have sort of reckoned with never being able to know and, in a larger way, never really being able to know what those in power [do]; as Adam Curtis says ... this idea that history is a story that people in power tell us reality is.

Exploring what happened to Epstein does spiral quickly into these conspiracy theories that become very baroque and slightly ridiculous. How did you not lose sight of the fact that there were real victims here and not have the movie making fun of all this even while it's sort of having fun with the ideas of it?

Well I knew one of Epstein's victims personally. And I went with her to the court date they had after his death where they invited the victims to sort of say what they would say if they had their day in court, basically. So I did feel a kind of closeness to it. It's not that it's funny to me, even though the proliferating kind of QAnon conspiracies are interesting and amusing. I felt very, very grounded in the real kind of horror of it. And in that way, making a psychological horror movie feels truer to me than a lot of the documentaries that have come out. I think making an indie movie that deals with things in a genre-y way gets to a deeper truth about it than something like a documentary would.

Do you feel like the perspective of the movie is similar to that of the podcast? Are they coming from the same place?

Maybe inasmuch as they are my brain children, I guess. I don't have an agenda.

On the podcast, it feels like you could say anything; there are no third rails. Were you being more careful in what you were doing with the movie?

A podcast is a much more ... casual medium than a movie is. A movie just takes more care by virtue of how it's made. But I was also traveling to Thailand a lot in the later part of 2019, because I was acting on this BBC show ["The Serpent"] that was being filmed there. And I wrote and made a lot of the revisions to the script actually on my flights, cause it's like a 24-hour-long flight back to and from Thailand. And being in Thailand, which is also kind of this human-trafficking hub, sex-tourist destination, I did feel a lot of just personal agony around sexual slavery as this very real feature of our world. I think that also was very much at the forefront of my writing process. I was trying to reckon with those things.

The podcast is often described as being "anti-woke." Is that accurate to you? Are you OK with that label?

It's not my favorite label, I guess. But it's not inaccurate, I suppose. We're critical of woke ideology, and in that I think it's loaded but not inaccurate.

And what are you criticizing in this idea of wokeness?

Well, I guess when people say "woke," they mean a kind of preference for something like identity politics as opposed to class-based politics. And the critique involves kind of pointing out hypocrisies of woke ideology and the way that they're ultimately sort of co-opted by ruling classes to perpetuate cycles of power and oppression. And wokeness as being ill-equipped for authentic revolutionary politics would be the critique, I suppose.

Do you consider yourself a revolutionary?

No, I don't. I wouldn't even necessarily identify as political. I would identify more, I guess, as an artist.


Emphasizing here that Dasha has never said Giallo or mentioned watching those and that it's film-critique that places it there in a sense of trying to place paranoia genre where they see stylization -- and lowkey I'll say Malcolm & Marie has fueled me against writeups but not Walsh'z, or against Criticism, merely highlighted the notion of writeups implying allusions where the creator has none.



Perhaps best known as the co-host of the cultural commentary podcast "Red Scare," Dasha Nekrasova is a Belarusian-American writer, actor, and director poised for a filmmaking breakthrough. Her debut feature, The Scary of Sixty-First, filters conspiratorial freakouts surrounding the death of Jeffrey Epstein through a no-holds-barred blend of giallo and Polanski. As an actor, she's collaborated with Eugene Kotlyarenko on films like We Are and Wobble Palace (which she also co-wrote), and she is set to appear in the third season of Succession.

After Scary's premiere at the Berlinale, where it was one of the buzziest titles in the Encounters section, Nekrasova shared five films that she finds inspirational, from the peaceful to the "awesomely psychotic."

TROUBLE EVERY DAY, Claire Denis, 2001

This movie really has it all: excessive violence, explorations of desire, and a cannibalistic allegory for horniness. Denis is a master and this one is particularly inspiring for its approach to genre and awesomely psychotic Béatrice Dalle.

COME AND SEE, Elem Klimov, 1985

Maybe the last movie I saw in theaters before the pandemme shuttered them. Totally devastating and harrowing epic set in Soviet Belarus that is an almost too real depiction of the atrocities of war. Feels like a nightmare you can't wake up from or like being immersed in a mass grave; it made me want to scream my head off and I have thought about it every day since.

SANS SOLEIL, Chris Marker, 1983

Chris Marker's cool and vibey film essay/travel "documentary" appealed to me as a college-aged Tumblr user. It's remained resonant for its poetic sensibility and conceptual synthesis of memory, banality, and extremity. "Only banality interests me." Lovely 16mm footage of sleeping Japanese commuters, barren landscapes, hands and faces, Vertigo, and melancholy reflections on the nature of time. Peaceful and pleasurable, could watch 100 times.

THE BIRDCAGE, Mike Nichols, 1996

Have loved this movie since I was a kid and it really holds up. I grew up in Las Vegas with performer parents, and this was a family favorite, perhaps due to the intersection of parenting and the entertainment industry. Elaine May is a hero of mine and I think her insights into maternal love and showbiz give the screenplay real heart. Haven't seen the original.

DEMONLOVER, Olivier Assayas, 2002

Inspiring techno-espionage thriller, and a big influence on me and Maddie when developing Scary. Happy to see its re-release by Film at Lincoln Center this year. Prescient in its portrayal of pornographic cyberculture and still feels futuristic. I'm a big fan of cosmopolitan intrigue, innovative spy tactics, and hentai/snuff aesthetics, so this film really does it for me.


Come and See is a wave initiated by its criterion release and she refers specifically to a Janus screening. It's not that I don't think it's good it's that I'm a seasoned cinephile and can spot a wave. Give it time and see how it holds, it'll stay good but lots of films are good. How does it compare to, say, Marketa Lazarová? Is criterion going to get around to releasing The Red and the White?

I'm noticing. No giallo on the list I also notice


Berlinale reveals 2021 first feature and documentary award winners

QuoteAlthough the 71st edition of the festival took place in March – as an online, industry-only event – the winners of these two prize categories have been held back until the eve of the public summer event, which will host outdoor screenings from July 9-20.

US horror The Scary Of Sixty-First initially screened in the festival's Encounters section and is inspired by late sex offender and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. Belarus-US actor Nekrasova makes her feature directing debut with the story of two flatmates who move into an uptown New York duplex at a rock-bottom price. But things take a sinister turn when a stranger informs them the place once belonged to Epstein.

Genre streaming platform Shudder recently took SVoD rights in North America, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, while US sales and distribution firm Utopia picked up remaining rights and will be selling available international rights at the upcoming Cannes market.

The award comes with a prize of €50,000, which will be shared between director Nekrasova and producers Adam Mitchell and Mark Rapaport.

The first feature jury also gave a special mention to District Terminal, an Iran-Germany co-production directed by Bardia Yadegari and Ehsan Mirhosseini.

French documentary We secured a second Berlinale win, after being named best film in the festival's Encounters section in March. The feature explores the diversity of Paris through a trip on its suburban trainline. The Berlinale Documentary Award includes a €40,000 prize, which will be split between director Diop and producer Sophie Salbot of production company Athénaïse. Totem Films handles sales.


Quote from: WorldForgot on June 08, 2021, 04:44:24 PM

oh shit okay, so, that's subscription video on demand. an alternative is TVod, which is transactional void on demand. then there's AVod, which is video on demand with advertisements. this is the world we live in now


Quote from: jenkins on June 08, 2021, 05:00:36 PM
Quote from: WorldForgot on June 08, 2021, 04:44:24 PM

oh shit okay, so, that's subscription video on demand. an alternative is TVod, which is transactional void on demand. then there's AVod, which is video on demand with advertisements. this is the world we live in now

Yesh. I'm actually OTT Prod Coordinator where I'm at. It's a endless field of data.