The Scary of Sixty-First expands the umbrella of “buzzword cinema” — it’s a Jeffrey Epstein conspiracy with a lesbian sex scene by a popular podcaster and it-girl of the edgy online community, a cluster of topics that reaches a more urbanite niche than other female-directed buzzword films like Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby or Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman.
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The Scary of Sixty-First is the trendiest film of the fall. Writer and director Dasha Nekrasova of Red Scare podcast fame, a self-proclaimed bot, algorithmically appeals to her audience through edgy dialogue and content. Phrases like “cucked bootlicker” and “pedo kabal” ripped straight from the redpilled dictionary make their way into the film often through the mouth of Nekrasova herself, who plays a mysterious woman investigating the death of Jeffrey Epstein and a murder at one of his properties on the Upper East Side.
While she may be plugging all the right words in to reach a very specific crowd, the same one that she has attracted and molded with her podcast, the rhetoric and themes are ultimately cohesive and, at least for the target demographic, the humor falls into place. Maybe it’s because of the key role Nekrasova played in bringing this rhetoric into the cultural zeitgeist to begin with as a (reluctant) herald of the “dirtbag left,” a reactionary ideology of burgeoning popularity among young urbanites and the chronically online based largely in its criticism of leftist politics. Combined with Nekrasova’s undeniable talent as a filmmaker, the film lives and breathes post-irony from plot to editing to performance — our sense of humor is tickled by the acknowledgment of our most emotionally fraught, sincere anxieties and paranoias.
This film and its three female protagonists are conspiratorial, hysterical, and supernatural. What they discover and how they react make their theories impossible to believe, but (spoilers) in the end it’s all real. While the horror lies in Addie’s (Betsey Brown) performance of pedophilic flashbacks, the more intense moments of murder and investigation are cushioned with campy blood splatters, over-the-top emotions, and Vyvanse. Recognizing that conventional methods of horror would likely fail to shock her audience, Nekrasova opted to put the most evocative horror in unexpected places rather than the climactic ending.
The campy confusion of the film’s conclusion is indicative of the fabricated and mystified web of elites’ lies and the ironic treatment of this by the “based and redpilled” community. For those anxiously wondering whether the film was satirical or sincere so they can figure out whether they liked it or not: you will never know peace. As a girl with BPD and a Twitter account I can appreciate that my most genuine and passionate opinions are so ridiculous I need to soften them with humor to deliver them to an audience. Why can’t you?
Regardless of whether you are able to find the humor or the horror in The Scary of Sixty-First, Nekrasova has undoubtedly pioneered a new filmmaking lens that will leave a memorable impression on every member of the audience. It features fun and unconventional moments like a full-screen display of a sexy anime video game that had the whole crowd at Newfest laughing. Even the earliest moments of the film and the portrayal of the central relationships between Addie, Greg (Mark Rapaport), and Noelle (Madeline Quinn) evoke an undeniable and potent discomfort. Perhaps the haters out there are mistaking their discomfort, a totally appropriate emotion to be elicited by a horror film, for a dislike of the film. Just offering a potential explanation. Jourdain Searles for The Hollywood Reporter called the film’s exploration of pedophilia in dialogue and theme “desperate in its desire to shock.” I would call the film desperate in its desire to be accurately emblematic of an emerging subculture whose humor and beliefs are in themselves obnoxiously transgressive. I wonder if Searles burst out laughing when Jeffrey Epstein flashed on the screen the way almost everyone at Nitehawk did when I saw the film.
The Scary of Sixty-First expands the umbrella of “buzzword cinema” — it’s a Jeffrey Epstein conspiracy with a lesbian sex scene by a popular podcaster and it-girl of the edgy online community, a cluster of topics that reaches a more urbanite niche than other female-directed buzzword films like Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby or Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman. The only other film that attempted to articulate the redpilled values and to bring cinematic life to this vocabulary was Alex Lee Moyer’s 2020 SXSW debut film, TFW No GF. The documentary attempted to explore the digital world of incel culture through their imagery. It is my opinion that Moyer was scared to access the incredibly dark and emotionally poignant truth of male loneliness and its relationship to aggression and extreme violence that is the legacy of incel culture, instead choosing subjects that represented a more hopeful relationship to society and masculinity. To see this rhetoric finally used conversationally in Scary of Sixty-First, as opposed to hearing it through a detached documentarian’s lens, is exciting. Nekrasova is one of us — /ourgirl/.
A friend of mine compared this film to my least favorite type of meme in the world — those word salads with a bunch of cutting-edge references jammed in and no punchline. When I see people repost those things it makes me feel like I live in a universe of NPCs programmed to psy-op me into seeing my media-consumer choices reflected back at me, like someone went “Oh, I know what that is,” and clicked repost in a weird trance of recognition. Or maybe it just rubs me the wrong way because it’s their way of trying to look cool and in the know. A popular criticism of this film is that it is awkwardly crammed with references that people trying very hard to be cool like to use to look cool. Unlike the memes of a similar format, this film actually has a point and a punchline. Trend cycles come and go, but the pedo kabal and those who suspect them of foul play will remain. Nekrasova has not only attracted a like-minded audience to Red Scare, she has rhetorically formed them, and now that she’s more or less created the formula for making them listen she would be an idiot not to use it.
If you are not a hysterical girl that likes taking stimulants and going on 4chan, then maybe this isn’t for you. If you are, and you decided you don’t like this film, may I suggest a long hard look in the mirror, and a question to reflect on: Is this film trying too hard to appeal to you, or are you trying too hard to not be appealed to? This is perhaps one of the worst caveats of gaining popularity with an irony-poisoned crowd: once a popular figure becomes decidedly and definitively “cool,” it becomes cooler and less obviously try-hard to criticize them than to say that you like them. The real Chads see through that and like what they like regardless of how the herd moves.
While the film is primarily representative of a particular subculture, it reflects a popular American sentiment of the current cultural moment that rings true across political and socioeconomic backgrounds. The hysterical mistrust of the government and elites present in Noelle and Nekrasova’s investigation of Esptein is reminiscent of the recent QAnon movement of the right, and the mystical New Agey elements of the film mimic the astrology-loving, Tarot-reading, crystal-toting young liberals. The Scary of Sixty-First undoubtedly and effectively echoes a cultural moment — would it be doing so successfully if it wasn’t so polarizing?
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All images are screenshots from YouTube trailers for the film.