Need a new show and love mysteries? Maybe you just want a distraction from an already overwhelming semester? Try Netflix’s new supernatural series, “Archive 81.”
“Archive 81” premiered on Netflix on January 14 and quickly rose to the top of Netflix’s most-watched movies list. Loosely based on a 2016 found footage horror podcast of the same name, the new eight-episode psychological thriller stars Dina Shihabi, Mamoudou Athie and Matt McGorry. Athie’s character, film archivist and museum creator Dan Turner, is invited to travel to a remote research facility to clean up billionaire Virgil Davenport’s (Martin Donovan) 1994 VHS tapes. Sounds tame enough? No, the tapes turn out to contain the secrets of a mysterious fire nearly three decades before and a missing filmmaker, Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi). Before long, Turner discovers that things can have an occult and supernatural twist.
Developed by ‘The Boys’ and ‘The Vampire Diaries’ producer and screenwriter Rebecca Sonnenshine, along with horror regulars Paul Harris Boardman and James Wan, the series draws inspiration from classic movies like ‘Silence of the Lambs and “Rosemary’s Baby”. to German medieval occult art to design his mystical world. Witches, covens, demons, haunting music, ancient languages - everything you could expect from a horror show, you can find in “Archive 81” and its masterfully crafted universe.
In an interview, Sonnenshine said, “Archive 81 is a deeply moving, character-driven story about the nature of art, faith and the search for identity – all wrapped in a frayed blanket of existential dread. The show also gave this movie geek the chance to unearth all sorts of forgotten media formats as found footage, resulting in a unique, visually textured story that is both beautiful and terrifying.
And it’s character-driven: With great homages to classic movie and old Hollywood history over the decades, the story unfolds via two timelines, one following Turner and the other following Pendras. The tapes chronicle Pendras’ time at the Visser Apartment Building as she worked on an oral history project days before the fire. Compiling interviews and video clips, Pendras delves into the building’s strange past. Soon, Turner becomes obsessed with the woman and attempts to uncover the origins of the fire.
Seeking help outside the research complex, Turner enlists his best friend, Mark (Matt McGorry), to dig through files and search for hidden messages. McGorry’s character is the perfect nod to the founding of “Archive 81” as he is introduced as a podcast creator and storyteller. It is this course that makes him the ideal partner because the story only gets more complicated.
All this not to pretend that the television adaptation of “Archives 81” is flawless. One of the show’s biggest criticisms came from its podcast roots and early fan base. The character, Melody Pendra, was drawn from a happy lesbian marriage in the podcast to a straight single woman. In other words, she was downright washed up: Think Celie Johnson in the movie version of “The Color Purple” or Paul in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” It seems that Hollywood’s long and discriminatory history has also continued to color this show in disappointing ways.
Anyway, given the rapid success of the series, many predict that a second season will soon be in the works. When asked by “Entertainment Weekly”, Sonnenshine herself insisted that she hoped the series would be picked up for another season. And, with the many questions left unanswered by the series’ conclusion, fans are already asking for more.
Prepare to lose sleep over the new Netflix series, if not for its terrors, at least for the endless twists. Treat yourself at your own risk.
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