The directorial debut of Red Scare podcaster and viral “sailor socialism” star Dasha Nekrasova, the provocative and conspiracy-soaked thriller follows two girls who move into a New York apartment once owned by the convicted sex offender.
There’s a scene about two-thirds into The Scary of Sixty-First, where, in quite possibly a cinematic first, a woman possessed by the spirit of an underage girl aggressively pleasures herself on a bed strewn with photos of Prince Andrew and assorted royal memorabilia.
While without doubt one of the film’s more WTF moments, it comes after a sharp crescendo of sexual provocation, and within a story based around the mystery of one of the most controversial and scandalous figures in modern U.S. history: Jeffrey Epstein.
The debut feature from Dasha Nekrasova — best known for the Red Scare podcast and 2018’s “sailor socialism” viral video with an unfortunately uninformed InfoWars reporter (“you people have worms in your brain” was one of Nekrasova’s standout lines) — The Scary of Sixty-First, which will compete in the Berlinale’s Encounters section and is being shopped by UTA, follows two friends, Noelle and Addie, who stumble across a super posh yet strangely affordable apartment in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Naturally, there’s a reason for this, and when a strange, unnamed woman (played by Nekrasova) arrives claiming that the property once belonged to Epstein, and was possibly used as his “orgy flop house” and to “house his slaves,” the narrative takes a distinctly creepy and sinister turn.
Nekrasova — currently shooting Succession , which she has joined for the third season (although she, disappointingly, won’t offer any further details of the story or her new character) — says that as a New York resident she had been “captivated and horrified” by the Epstein story. When he was arrested for sex trafficking minors in late 2018, she lived just three blocks from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where a month later he was found dead in his cell, sparking a wave of conspiracy theories about the elite powers who wanted the disgraced financier and convicted pedophile silenced before he could implicate them in his testimony.
“When he died it really felt like the CIA just slapping me in the face,” says Nekrasova, who claims she immediately joined the so-called Epstein truthers, trying to organize meetings with others who were also deeply suspicious of the official line that he had killed himself using a prison sheet around his neck (the only suicide in the facilities’ history). The subject became a regular topic on her podcast.
Feeling the “futility of trying” to get to the bottom of the secret, just a few weeks after Epstein’s death she teamed with Madeline Quinn (who also plays Noelle) to start writing the The Scary of Sixty-First, which was financed and produced by Stag Pictures, taking the mystery and wrapping it within a “paranormal psychosexual thriller.” It is, she says, a feature borne out of the “frustration of not being able to know anything and feeling sort of powerless in the face of extreme corruption and power.”
While the powerful aren’t brought to rights in the film, several are name-checked. Among them the “Clinton Crime Family” and, adding to the royal medley, Queen Elizabeth, all referenced as Noelle and Nekrasova’s character dive obsessively into everything Epstein: his notorious Black Book, the autopsy report, his private island and his so-called “Lolita Express” private jet.
Anyone who has listened to the Red Scare podcast will understand that Nekrasova’s personal politics are firmly on the left, but as she notes, the scale of the scandal managed to eclipse most partisan allegiances.
“‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’ became such a powerful meme because it really transcended the left and right, and was like a unifying conspiracy,” she says. “Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if the elites are blood-drinking pedophile lizards or whatever proliferation of that people are drawn to, because this activity is just as monstrous as Epstein. He was a pedophile and a human trafficker. And it seems to me, and I think to a lot of people, that there was something about extreme wealth that created this kind of moral rot.”
At one point, to highlight her doubts over the suicide report, Nekrasova’s character reenacts her own Epstein-style strangulation using a ripped sheet and a cupboard door. Even though a stunt coordinator was present, she admits she still “burst blood vessels around my eyes.”
Not to be be outdone on the envelope-pushing, Addie (Betsey Brown) takes a far darker path than the other two, falling into state of pseudo-possession as a 13-year-old girl with what Nekrasova describes as a “demonic hypersexual fixation” on Prince Andrew, culminating in the wild bedroom scene (which she credits Brown for, saying the script was actually very underwritten).
Nekrasova knew she wanted to include a Prince Andrew element in the film even before his car-crash BBC interview in late 2019, in which he refuted accusations made by Virginia Giuffre, who claimed she had been forced to have sex with the prince three times between 2001 — when she was 17 — and 2002, a denial that involved him reference a peculiar temporary medical condition that preventing him from sweating.
“When that interview came out, I was like, wow, he’s truly the world’s dumbest man and guilty as hell,” she says.
Given the hot-button topic of Epstein and the elite figures referenced, does Nekrasova anticipate any blowback over her highly-provocative debut, particularly from royalists? If the reactions to Harry and Meghan’s Megxit are anything to go by, fans of the monarchy can be a rather reactionary group.
“To be honest, I think it’s bizarre to be a fan of the royals,” she admits. “I’m more concerned about them having me killed.”
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