The explosion of conspiracy theories that have been fueled by the All the time online period has led to a distinct sort of city paranoia. There’s a rising sense, particularly for these in true crime circles, that one thing darkish and horrifying lurks behind each house door. Take into consideration all of the domiciles in an NYC house constructing after which all of the horror tales that unfold every single day simply on true crime podcasts alone. There’s most likely one thing fallacious down the corridor. Or possibly even within the house, you’re now renting. This creeping dread is the gasoline for the most effective features of Dasha Nekrasova’s “The Scary of Sixty-First,” a horror/thriller clearly impressed by city paranoia thrillers like Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” however with a contemporary twist. However, the filmmaking lets down Nekrasova’s idea, notably in a cluttered and typically incompetent remaining act, leaving viewers to surprise what all of it means, or if it means something in any respect.
Addie (Betsey Brown) and Noelle (Madeline Quinn) are launched doing one thing metropolis dwellers know is really horrifying: house looking. From the start, they have got that barely uncomfortable dynamic of buddies who is probably not so for too lengthy. In your twenties, you usually end up agreeing to reside with a buddy although you are probably not thrilled in regards to the prospect of seeing them every single day—a mediocre roommate you understand is healthier than a stranger you do not know. However, they’re principally cordial at the same time as Addie appears startled by the weird structure of the brand new place on the Higher East Aspect that features unusual locks on sure doorways. It’s a steal. They must take it.
Addie has an oaf of a boyfriend (Mark H. Rapaport) to distract her from her roommate, however, all the pieces adjustments for each lady when an unnamed stranger knocks on their door who’s credited solely as “The Woman” (performed by Nekrasova herself). The Woman tells Noelle that she believes they’re dwelling in a spot that has seen untold horrors: one of many residences wherein Jeffrey Epstein used to site visitors and abuse ladies. That explains the low lease, though possibly not the creepy tarot card they discovered once they moved in.
Earlier than you understand it, Noelle and The Woman have tumbled down the rabbit gap right into a Wonderland of conspiracy theories about Epstein and his residences. They volley more and more passionate conspiracy theories forwards and backward—sure, the phrase “Pizzagate” is used—even reaching some extent the place they’re satisfied that Epstein’s residences are 5 blocks aside as a result of there are 5 factors on a Pentagram. Duh. As they begin to go mad with theories about what occurred within the house, they don’t appear to note that Addie is sort of actually going insane too. She appears nearly possessed by one of many kids that Epstein trafficked, even terrifying her boyfriend with some excessive habits throughout intercourse.
The most effective facet of “The Scary of Sixty-First” is how Nekrasova captures the connections that may be made by conspiracy theories. As Noelle and The Woman get extra concerned with them, they kinda bond that turns into a romance, and Nekrasova (co-host of the “Pink Scare” podcast) is aware of a factor or two about how private dynamics can kind by intense widespread perception. There are such a lot of attention-grabbing concepts in “The Scary of Sixty-First” that really feel like they are going to be part of the material of the subsequent decade of horror and I saved attempting to think about these concepts in a movie with tighter craft and performances.
As a result of whereas I can admire the trouble right here, the execution is one other story. Hunter Zimny’s 16mm cinematography is wildly inconsistent, typically recalling the paranoia thrillers of the ‘70s that so clearly impressed this movie but in addition, feeling a bit slapped collectively, one thing nearer to Mumblecore/indie drama filmmaking. It’s so clearly a descendant of filmmakers like Polanski and De Palma (with even a splash of Argento), however, the framing right here feels extra amateurish, particularly within the remaining act when Nekrasova depends too closely on shaky camerawork to convey terror.
In the long run, I used to be left feeling like “The Scary of Sixty-First” was all set up and had no follow-through. Positive, it will get bloody and loopy in methods that can most likely flip off some viewers, but it surely would not really feel prefer it has one thing to say about our conspiracy concept tradition. Maybe that’s the purpose—that this sort of QAnon spiraling out about issues we can’t manage will solely result in distress. We’d look again at “The Scary of Sixty-First” as the beginning of a kind of apathetic Twitterverse model of style filmmaking, one which acknowledges that making a horror movie is more durable in an age of actual villains like Jeffrey Epstein. For now, it simply seems like a chilly shrug as an alternative to the impassioned warning it may have been.