'Archive 81' Review: Netflix horror series is creepy and supremely addictive
Netflix has a knack for treating its viewers with amazing content and when it comes to the genre of horror, there are a lot of extraordinary titles on the streaming platform. Apart from having some of the most intriguing horror titles, it also consists of some of the strangest horror shows as well. From last year’s ‘Behind Her Eyes’ to ‘Clickbait’, the world’s leading streaming platform is trying to reach greater heights with such experimental projects.
The platform has expanded its horror catalog with another show titled ‘Archive 81’. The series revolves around a man named Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie), who works at the Museum of Moving Images and restores old and damaged tapes. One day, he gets an offer to restore a tape which sees a college student named Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi) shooting a video before going to the Visser Apartment for one of her projects. However, his life turns upside down when he gets to know the truth of that building and what was happening there.
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The found-footage sub-genre hasn’t been yielding good results for many years now, but ‘Archive 81’ seems to be a step in the right direction. The series is much more grounded than the previous horror shows on Netflix, however, the only thing it needs from its viewers is patience. It is a slow-burner, but that doesn’t mean it won’t keep you hooked. With each episode, the tension rises and the mystery of what happened at the Visser Building gets even more complicated.
It all starts with a company called LGM that hires Dan to restore the tapes of what happened at the Visser Building in 1994. The entire building was destroyed by a fire that reportedly took away 13 lives, but there is no official confirmation about the deaths. LGM President Virgil Davenport (Martin Donovan) talks to him and said that he will pay him $100,000 to restore all the tapes recorded by Melody. Those tapes can unravel the truth about what happened that fateful day. So, Dan is relocated to a remote facility to recover those tapes.
As soon as Melody reaches the Visser Building, creepy stuff starts happening. She hears eerie humming while sleeping and when she says “hello”, it suddenly stops. At the same time, there is a lot of disturbance on the tapes as well. Tension keeps rising as Melody starts getting to know people there. She claims she’s there for a community-based research project, but she’s actually on the hunt for her birth mother, who abandoned Melody as a baby.
During these parts, the series successfully manages to heighten the tension and lets everyone, including Dan, feel the anxiety through the videotapes. One thing that makes the show so unique is that it doesn’t rely on jump scares or creepy noises to scare you. Rather, it scares you with the situations that the characters are in, and trust me, the show reaches a whole new level with the growing sense of dread.
As far as the acting is concerned, Mamoudou Athie has done a phenomenal job as Dan. His somber performance actually makes the show even more compelling. His character fights his own demons to unravel the mystery of the Visser Building and when he is left in isolation, he feels the paranoia kicking in as soon as he gets immersed in those tapes. There would have been no one better than Mamoudou to play Dan.
However, it is Dina Shihabi who takes your breath away as Melody. Just like Mamoudou, her performance is also very restrained. Whenever she arrives on the screen, you know that some special is going to come from her and she doesn’t disappoint. She did an amazing job in ‘Jack Ryan’ and in ‘Archive 81’, she just showed how supremely talented she really is.
The performances of the leading actors will completely mesmerize you and the reason why they are so amazing is that the show has been presented in a way that could have outclassed everything, but they confidently hold down the show with their acting skills.
Another standout performer is Ariana Neal, who plays the role of Jess. On the other hand, Martin Donovan as Virgil is amazing as usual. His character is never trustworthy. But that’s the whole point of his character. Meanwhile, Julia Chan delivers another splendid performance as Anabelle on the show.
Meanwhile, Evan Jonigkeit stuns as Samuel. He is really menacing and probably, one of best villains we have seen in recent times.
As a whole, eight hours might come as a long time to unravel the mystery of ‘Archive 81’, but that’s the beauty of it. With every episode, you are taken to a rabbit hole which increases the horror quotient and makes you gasp for air. The show is weird, but at the same time, this is the kind of show we have been waiting for.
‘Archive 81’ is undoubtedly one of the best horror shows on Netflix and definitely requires a viewing.
‘Archive 81’ Season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.