Witches, cults and human sacrifice — just what every good found-footage horror series needs.
Based on the horror podcast produced by Daniel Powell and Marc Sollinger, “Archive 81” follows digital archivist Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie), who is hired to restore damaged footage from an apartment fire two decades ago. Eerily enough, Dan’s family was also killed in a fire around the same time, and he feels drawn to the job.
Moved to a research facility in the middle of nowhere, Dan finds himself uncovering more than old family videos, although he does see a few familiar faces on the tapes — including his father.
The footage follows doctoral student Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi) as she films a documentary dissertation on the history of the Eldritch Visser apartment building. As we learn more about the building and its eccentric residents, we also learn more about Melody, why she’s really at the Visser and her connection with Dan and his family.
Each episode opens with a news broadcast, commercial or old footage that somehow ties into an important part of the episode, so pay attention to those easter eggs while watching.
Fair warning: you’re going to come across death, gore and sensitive subjects like suicide, demonic possession and religious trauma. While these scenes are nowhere near the same shock value as movies like “V/H/S” — if you know, you know — these depictions might be too much for some viewers.
The show debuted on Netflix earlier this year and ended with a cliff-hanger, but the status of a second season is still up in the air. Netflix has a history of canceling great shows before their time. Mamoudou Athie had a recurring role in “The Get Down,” which only lasted one season, and Dina Shihabi had a main role in the second and final season of “Altered Carbon.” Both shows had generally positive reviews upon cancellation.
Fear not, however, as Dan and Melody’s story continues in the original podcast for another two seasons. Even if the show doesn’t get brought back, viewers need not worry about ending on a cliff-hanger.
“Archive 81” is a slow-burn (no pun intended) but is entirely worth it. Melody’s unsettling interactions with the residents, Dan’s growing paranoia about his employer’s intent and the horrors that lie within the tapes leave viewers on the edge of their seats throughout the nine-episode series.