The Scary of Sixty-First was born from the conspiratorial fervour which sprung up in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein’s death, and explores the many ellipses around the case. The plot follows two young women – Noelle (played by Madeline Quinn) and Addie (played by the phenomenal Betsey Brown) – who inadvertently move into an Upper East Side duplex previously owned by Epstein. Mania takes hold of all who cross its threshold, and Noelle becomes embroiled in a psychosexual partnership with an obsessive amateur investigator known only as “The Girl”, played by Dasha Nekrasova, also the film’s writer and director.
Here, New York-based percussionist and composer Eli Keszler takes us through some of the inspirations for his score to Nekravsova’s Epstein-inspired psychosexual horror movie.
The score for The Scary of Sixty-First was inspired by a deep dive into library music and Italian Giallo scores, the textures of this music blended perfectly with the feel of Scary.
Dasha and I came up with the idea for what we called the pentagram melody: two melodic cells that play individually and then interlock in counterpoint forming a musical pentagram. This was scored to the image of the recurring tarot card in the movie. In addition, elements of hymns such as “O Worship Thy King”, as well as themes from Bach and Rachmaninoff (Epstein’s composer of choice), run through the score. We wanted to find a blend between the elegance of Christmas in New York, occult ritual, conspiracy and possession that is central to the story.
'O Venezia, venaga, venusia' by Nino Rota, from Fellini’s ‘Casanova’, 1976
Nino Rota's melancholic masterpiece. Conductor Carlo Savina (who also orchestrated most of the score due to Rota's illness) said the music was a fever dream and there's really no better way to describe it. The bulk of the score uses rare Baroque instruments to create the mysterious mood, including a glass harmonica and the oboe d'amore.
The film deals with 18th century womaniser Casanova and his life. It includes mind blowing events, sets, costumes. Rota's music underlines the sensuality and exoticism of the movie. The score isn't Rota's most fascinating experiment. Its main idea was to use arpeggio and minimalism in order to create a great musical world of surrealism. A balance of elements we were attempting to achieve in Scary. Instruments include the celestial, harpsichord, vibraphone and electric piano. I really love how those instruments jump back and forth. The music is in perfect relation to the visual game of Fellini.
‘L'alba dei morti viventi’ by Goblin, from ‘Dawn of The Dead’, 1978
In exchange for Dario Argento’s help on Dawn of the Dead, George Romero allowed Argento to release a different (more explicit) cut of the movie in Europe. This version was called Zombi. Instead of the library music score that Romero had used, Argento enlisted the help of his pals Goblin to record a new soundtrack.
‘Sorcerer’ soundtrack by Tangerine Dream, from 1977
Tangerine Dream's first foray into film scoring. Apparently Friedkin, who produced the film, was a big fan of prog rock and electronic music and had heard of Tangerine Dream back in 1973. Edgar Froese, the band’s founder, later recalled: "The Sorcerer soundtrack was recorded on an old eight-track Ampex tape machine in Berlin. It was one of the four machines that were in Abbey Road Studios in London, which were sold after the Beatles era. We had rented an old movie theatre in Berlin and made a small studio out of it. The Moog was very useful, and by this stage we were quite versed in its use. We also used a Fender Rhodes piano, guitars, and even Revox tape machines as delay units.”
Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to ‘Il gatto a nove code’, 1971
Il gatto a nove code (The Cat O’ Nine Tails in English), is the second film by Dario Argento, a horror thriller still distant from his horror works for which he would later become famous for. The film was made in collaboration with the composer and conductor Ennio Morricone, already known for his work on Sergio Leone’s western movies.
Here Morricone goes even further, creating a really dissonant and avant-garde sound, with practically one single basis theme in the form of a few essential bass guitar notes. During those years, after all, the Maestro was part of the avant-garde improv group, Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, and the films of Dario Argento provided the perfect terrain where Morricone could experiment, without any boundaries. The organised chaos of these Morricone/Argento collaborations are amongst my favourites.
Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to ‘L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo’, 1970
Dario Argento’s ‘opera prima’ L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (The Bird With The Crystal Plumage in English) premiered in 1970. Argento assigned the score to Ennio Morricone, composer of the soundtracks for Comandamenti per un gangster, C’era una volta il west, Metti, una sera a cena, Un esercito di 5 uomini and La stagione dei sensi, of which Argento had already written the screenplay. For this movie the maestro adopted a particular style that draws heavily on contemporary music and on the studies of his Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza.
‘Bali Pulau Bagus’ from the album ‘Tropish Verlgagen’, by Cybe
We used this music as an inspiration for the drug-fuelled paranoid scenes in Scary. A techno-nature synthesis for an East-West confrontation, a musical travelogue from a Dutch musician searching for inspiration in the East in the early 80s.
Jack Nitzsche’s soundtrack to ‘Hardcore’, 1979
Nitsche’s woozy score for writer-director Paul Schrader’s brilliant, harrowing film follows the grim pilgrimage of a calvinist Midwestern businessman (the great George C. Scott) searching for his vanished daughter in the seedy subculture of the L.A. porn industry. The score has never been officially released, with rumours the tapes were lost in the fiery aftermath of a massive earthquake. The mixing of calvinist hymns, with a detuned crystalline organ became a touch point for Dasha and I when building a language for this score.