Archive 81 is an American supernatural horror mystery streaming television series developed by Rebecca Sonnenshine, written by Paul Harris Boardman and executive produced by Sonnenshine, Boardman, and James Wan. The series is based on the podcast of the same name, about researchers cataloging the video archive of a missing filmmaker.
The basic premise of Archive 81 sounds like something out of a horror B-movie from the 1990s! As mentioned above, an archivist is hired to restore a collection of tapes and finds himself reconstructing the work of a filmmaker and her investigation into a dangerous cult. Thus, there are strong elements of H.P. Lovecraft and inter alia, John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, Michael Winner’s The Sentinel and most recently, Ari Aster’s Hereditary.
Much of Archive 81 can be hard to follow as the story is told in the present day with archivist Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie) and through the restored video, 1994 with the missing filmmaker Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi) – not to mention also that somehow Turner and Pendras also communicate with each other in dreams (K-drama much?). It’s all rather convoluted but it has something to do with a snuff film from the 1920s depicting a demonic summoning …
The eight-part series does a good job in keeping the mystery under wraps and allowing the viewer to share in Turner’s discovery of the horrific back story that unfolds before his eyes. Of course, as with most fantastical tales, there are plot holes that never quite add up but thankfully do not hurt the suspension of disbelief too much. Thus, it is still possible to enjoy the series even though much of it may not make too much sense internally.
Now, the ending of Archive 81 does suggest that the story will be continued in a subsequent season which is unsatisfying to an extent. How the second season explains the mysterious ending should make for intriguing viewing though. Recommended for horror buffs.
Now streaming on Netflix.
… still there’s more …