Archive 81 on Netflix is a must-watch if you like intriguing puzzle boxes with themes like tarot cards, séances, exorcisms, and cults. Each episode reveals new pieces of a crazy mystery that draw you further into the show. It’s only that, and don’t let this put you off, you’ll have to endure a few episodes that aren’t quite as exciting before you get to the good stuff.
You may also see Mamoudou Athie (who plays a similar character in the undervalued science fiction film Black Box) and Dina Shihabi in the key parts of the horror film Archive 81. It aired in January, just around the time when Netflix unveiled the series finale of Ozark. Archive 81 was far less talked about than the show’s last episode, and it’s not hard to see why.
The introduction of Archive 81 is appropriately eerie. A lady can be heard begging in a grainy video, “please locate me, please help.” Afterward, she seems to scream as she is seized.
After that eerie prologue, we cut to Dan, a media archivist, and his point of view (Athie). Dan is recruited by an unnamed, affluent guy to repair burned VHS cassettes that were found in the aftermath of a 1990s New York City apartment building fire. Dan is knowledgeable and inquisitive. We quickly find out that he suffered the tragic loss of his family when he was very young.
I was both frightened and confused at the conclusion of the first episode. Melody (Shihabi), the young lady we saw in the introduction who recorded the records, has obviously met with a dreadful end. Dan is being secretly monitored by the guy who gave him the archiving job. Dan also saw his father on the film. What?
The unsettling tone of the pilot episode is maintained throughout the series. We learn why Dan and Melody feel obliged to see things through to the conclusion as they are put in more precarious positions throughout both timeframes.
Melody’s eccentric roommate Anabelle, portrayed by Julia Chan, is another show-stealer. While Melody is upbeat and driven, the paranormally obsessed tenants and sinister monuments of the Visser Building are quite the opposite. There is a growing number of mysteries surrounding the unusual behaviour of Visser inhabitants. Does anybody know whether Melody finally locates what she’s looking for? How come Dan is chatting with a rodent? (The solution to the last question is elusive.)
While the first half of Archive 81 left me feeling uneasy and disoriented, the second half was much more engaging. Completely. The mystery of Archive 81 is compelling, and it will draw you into its universe. In light of this, Netflix’s decision to end the programme after only one season was a grave error. Although there is a cliffhanger that isn’t answered, the remainder of the episode was able to explain all of my concerns.
Archive 81 is a fantastic choice if you’re in the market for a scary show. Don’t just let it sit on the shelf; watch at least a few episodes and let the suspense build.
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