There are plenty of horror stories about New York real estate, but “The Scary of Sixty-First” is a horrible film about a New York apartment. Co-written and directed by Dasha Nekrasova (who also co-stars) it opens with two friends, Noelle (Madeline Quinn) and Addie (Betsey Brown) being shown an apartment by a realtor (Stephen Gurewitz). They question having to go through one bedroom to get to the next, as well as an unusual private entrance. Addie seems concerned about the mirror on the ceiling in her bedroom. But, hey, it is cheap and spacious, and the previous tenant left it furnished. He also left something unfortunate in the fridge, in what may the film’s only real scary moment. Addie does some smudging to ward off the bad vibes. Viewers should not only smudge, but also steer clear of the awful “The Scary of Sixty-First.”
The film has little to recommend. The roommates fight almost constantly, which does not make them endearing. But a rift really develops between them when a nameless young woman (Nekrasova), posing as a realtor, forces her way into the apartment. She informs Noelle that “something extremely sinister happened” in the unit — it was previously owned by Jeffrey Epstein. The two women do some research, but also take time to do some drugs and have some gratuitous lesbian sex. Meanwhile, Addie is telling her boyfriend Greg (Mark Rapaport, who produced) to “f*** her like a 13 year-old.” Addie is possessed by an evil spirit, it seems, because she has no idea that she said such a disturbing thing to Greg, who sends her home. In another, risible scene, Addie masturbates using pictures of Prince Andrew.
The film does not work as camp, despite such silly moments. The writing is lazy, the acting is indifferent at best, and the camerawork is haphazard when it isn’t just lurid. There is an effort for the film to invoke the style of ’70s thrillers, but it is a missed opportunity.
One of the many problems in the film is that the film does not seem to have much of a purpose. The Epstein plotline never connects with anything, other than perhaps Addie’s sexual possession. An episode that cross cuts between the nameless woman trying to “hang” herself (perhaps to show Epstein’s death wasn’t suicide) with a possessed Addie masturbating may make a connection between sex and death, but to what end? These scenes certainly don’t convey the horrors that the young children the Epstein abused and trafficked experienced. A shot of what looks like scratches or claw marks in a closet, or a blood stained mattress Noelle sleeps on, suggest the torturous events that are far more upsetting.
Moreover, the film mentions Addie having some mental illness, but that could be sarcasm; the flat line reading makes it difficult to tell. The nameless woman is gaslighted at one point, but that episode lacks tension. The most surprising thing here, other than how truly awful the film is, is a twist in the last reel that serves to explain some of what transpired. But it does not really explain why.
“The Scary of Sixty-First” feels underdeveloped throughout. The tone is uneven and the relationships between the characters are questionable. Noelle nags Addie because her parents have money and fails to respect that Addie wants to make it on her own. Greg insists on getting the women a Christmas tree, oblivious to the fact that Addie is Jewish. The unnamed woman bulldozes her way into Noelle’s life and disturbs everyone she meets. A scene where she and Noelle go to an apothecary to divine the meaning of a tarot-like card with a pentagram-like symbol, is curious because it could have actually led somewhere, but instead, goes nowhere slowly, like much of this terrible film.
Nekrasova fails to show any talent here, although she arguably gives the film’s best performance. That is damning with the faintest of praise given Betsey Brown’s screen work, which deserves pity. Madeline Quinn has an attitude towards Addie and is sycophantic towards Nekrasova’s character, which doesn’t demand much of her. In support, Mark Rapaport is just painful to watch.
No amount of paint or polish can put lipstick on this pig. With little to recommend it, “The Scary of Sixty First” is easily one of the year’s worst films.
THE SCARY OF SIXTY-FIRST | Directed by Dasha Nekrasova | Opening December 17 at the Quad Cinema and available on digital December 24 | Distributed by Utopia