Now streaming on Shudder, The Scary of Sixty-First is a weird little movie.
Two friends who don’t really seem to like each other that much, Noelle (Madeline Quinn) and Addie (Betsey Brown), move into a fully furnished Manhattan apartment. The apartment, they are told, has been uninhabited for a few years. The realtor asks them not to play the piano. One of the mattresses is stained with blood. Hidden amongst the surprisingly ornate furniture are mystical books and mysterious cards. It’s kind of a creepy place but it’s also in Manhattan and it’s affordable.
Addie, we’re told, has a history of mental instability and a difficult relationship with her family. (Noelle, at one point, refers to Addie’s father as being a pedophile.) Addie also has an idiot boyfriend named Gary (Mark Rapaport, who also produced the film). Gary may be a little bit slow but he has his standards and when Addie starts to speak in a strange voice and ask him to take part in some truly perverse role play, he freaks out.
Meanwhile, Noelle meets a mysterious person who is only referred to as being The Girl (played by the film’s director, Dasha Nekrasova). The Girl is hooked on speed and conspiracy theories. The Girl explains that Noelle and Addie’s apartment was once used by Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. The Girl says that she’s investigating their crimes but her investigation mostly seems to consist of watching YouTube videos and walking around New York. Within hours of meeting each other, Noelle and the Girl are lovers but when The Girl tries to demonstrate why Epstein couldn’t possibly have hanged himself, Noelle appears to deliberately hesitate before saving the Girl’s life. Later, as they walk around New York, the Girl spots a woman who she claims is Ghislaine Maxwell.
As for Addie, she’s having nightmares and when she’s not dreaming, she’s sleepwalking and doing even more. She’s also becoming obsessed with the British Royal Family. She’s especially interested in Prince Andrew….
“Epstein didn’t kill himself,” as the saying goes and one reason why people are still saying that years after Jeffrey Epstein’s death is because it’s obvious that, whether he killed himself or not, he still took a lot of secrets with him to the grave. I’m a student of conspiracy theories but I wouldn’t call myself a believer. I tend to assume that most of what happens in the world is due to random fate as opposed to the unseen hand of some secret organization. That said, I totally accept that there’s a very good chance that Jeffrey Epstein was murdered on the orders of the rich and powerful people who he previously flew to his private island. One reason why The Scary of Sixty-First works is because, as bizarre as the film gets, it’s still dealing with a conspiracy theory that even most skeptics find to be plausible.
And indeed, it’s a bizarre film, one that plays out like a filmed dream. Little about the film makes sense and, at the end of it, you’re still left with a lot of unanswered questions but then again, that’s a feeling that will be familiar to anyone who has ever gone down a conspiracy rabbit hole. Are Noelle and Addie truly being possessed by evil auras of Epstein and Maxwell or are they just allowing their own paranoia to drive them mad? Much like a dream, the answers are there but they’re hidden. It’s a film that many people will find to be distasteful but, at its best, it captures the speed-fueled logic of the modern conspiracy theorist. It’s a jolt of psychosis captured on a film. The apartment becomes a metaphor for both the sins of the past and the uncertainty of the present.
Understandably, many will find the film to be distasteful and it often is. But, at the same time, The Scary on Sixty-First captures the atmosphere and the paranoia of our current cultural moment. After all, Epstein didn’t kill himself.
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