Popularity, I think, is irrelevant in film critique. Increasingly common in film writing is the practice of saying something favorable to please a crowd who already loves a thing; it’s no secret we started Grumpire as an antidote. Therefore it may be no surprise that our contributors often pay no mind to what other people are saying about a film in order to take inspiration from it, positive or negative. That dedication to authenticity is one of the characteristics of this site that I as owner and editor am most proud of. However, I admit there is some bias showing through in the case of this particular Audio Fanfiction.
The Scary of Sixty-First has been jeered every which way by what appears to be thousands of Shudder users (the platform on which you can find it streaming), calling it “tasteless,” “gross,” “generally a trainwreck,” “a waste of time,” and other varying degrees of “terrible.” I’m not sure which would be worse: that these users are too ignorant to grasp what the film is doing, or that they willfully choose not to. Regardless, the bewilderment I feel when perusing the Shudder reviews gives way to an intense wish to bring understanding to the masses, not just to argue for this film, but a deeply-felt purposeful mission of lobbying for its acceptance. In this case, the film’s popularity (or anti-popularity as it were) is so heavy upon me that I am breaking my rule against the “popular” type of criticism.
But perhaps the dislike is to be expected. Dasha Nekrasova is controversial enough on her own without having made this sublime horror film. Red Scare, the podcast she co-hosts, is easily damnable by those who decide to misinterpret it as promoting the ideals in which it critiques, or those who simply do not care for the edgy tactics of the dirtbag left. The Scary of Sixty-First seems itself a troll, thrusting its audience without regard into intense satire and irony somewhat carelessly packaged into an homage to European-flavored New York socialite horror.
When I say “carelessly,” I don’t exactly mean “messy.” The film rides the line of exploitation, and therefore at times may seem clumsy in presentation. But what Nekrasova puts forth in this picture is that she may not necessarily care too much about that clumsiness. I won’t go as far as to contemplate if she planned out any kind of “form equals function” here, but the ideas The Scary of Sixty-First tackles are clumsy themselves. This film is born within a time of such cultural division that the details of any given situation get lost between separate walls of folks determined not to see them. Those details, unaffected and unloved, hold no bearing on our opinions or worldviews, turning into a mush of gray area that resembles a decaying compost heap more than a budding community garden.
In that, The Scary of Sixty-First shows a great deal of ambition. Nekrasova tries almost furiously to cram as many talking points as she can into the film, and yet it still comes across as cool and casual as if she put no effort into it whatsoever. Or maybe she doesn’t try at all. That’s a perfect thing about this film: the ambiguity in deciphering its motivations. Still, how Nekrasova slyly takes the topical and guides it into being transcendentally timeless is no little feat. The shocking bits of the film (of which there are several) make us chuckle nervously by transgressively confronting deeply inlaid sexual desire; its bluntness allows us to communicate more effectively about these topics rather than apprehensively skirt around them. Not only that, the film criticizes our tendency toward gossip and censures the relationship between conspiracy and idolatry and how easily energized we become by both; it comments on our obsessive impulses and how we superficially rely on the mystical unknown to quell the darkness surrounding us. The movie may be lacking in certain areas and may seem hurried at times, but damn if it is not smart. And I stand by that.
So in order to satiate my own obsession with Nekrasova and her film, I dove into the realm of Audio Fanfiction and came up with this playlist to celebrate the movie. To capture the mood, I chose songs I find sexy or irreverent (or both), and songs that fit into both the subversive tongue-in-cheek nature of the film and what some of the characters may be feeling at times. Here, we are tackling themes of obsession and possession, sexual taboo, dark magic, mythology, and useless royalty all wrapped up into an uncomfortably rebellious and satirical commentary on the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking scandal. That is to say, enjoy it, but, like The Scary of Sixty-First, maybe don’t take this playlist too seriously (wink). ★