Archive 81: Netflix Series Review

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So, all I knew about this is that it hit the number 1 spot on Netflix and I said, “sure, why not?”

It’s a rare pleasure when I come across a show that I enjoy thoroughly from the first episode. I usually give myself three episodes of a show to see if I’ll like it or not, but I didn’t need that grace period with this one. I am not a film buff or an artsy person, but I have an appreciation for those people and I always find them interesting. The main character, Dan, is a guy who restores audio and video recordings that have been damaged. He gets a lot of cool vintage footage and takes a lot of pride in his work. He’s a meticulous person and the actor portrays that pretty well.

The tapes Dan is working on are supposedly confidential, he’s supposed to work alone for a very long time and keep everything hush hush. But, when he’s watching them, they don’t look like they are anything out of the ordinary, at first anyway. There’s a girl who’s doing a documentary on the residents of this apartment complex known as The Visser. It was built on top of a mansion that had burned to the ground, and the people living there now are supposed to be a little odd. So, she starts going through and interviewing the residents as an oral history thing, and she’s also searching for her biological mother who left her at a church or something when she was an infant. She supposedly once lived at this apartment complex and has since vanished without a trace. Anyway, it’s not a spoiler to say this Visser also burned to the ground. The tapes he is given are damaged from that fire and he’s watching this girl go through her life and documentary and it gets increasingly creepy as a cult is revealed to be active in this building.

I found Dan to be absolutely compelling. The actor, Mamoudou Athie, really threw himself into this role and he just has fantastic nuanced facial control. Which is great, because the cast for this show is really small. It’s an intimate setting, too. Which combined with a small cast could be a disaster if one the actors wasn’t hitting their marks, but I think all of them did. It’s just that Mamoudou inparticular was fantastic.

Archive 81. Mamoudou Athie as Dan Turner in episode 102 of Archive 81. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2021

The cinematography and the music for this were both really well done, as maybe you’d expect from a movie about movies and audio recordings, lol. The ambient music will skip from time to time giving everything an eerie continuity. There were many scenes where this guy is totally alone in an abandoned research building and kind of losing his mind a bit. It’s a really creepy and slow build up that crescendos nicely by the end when he’s convinced he’s either going mad or shit he never thought was real, is very real. Cults, demons, lots of creepy shit.

As far as the pacing it starts to get real wild by the end of episode five, which was just a mindfuck. Honestly, it was almost a bit too much. But, I was so invested in this series I needed to keep going to see if the reveal/payoff was going to be worth it and if it would all make sense. Episode six just gave me more questions and less answers and I started to get antsy. It does all come together and there are some reveals that continue to hit you through to the end so it does make it worth it, at least for me.

Just as a weird personal aside, it’s very odd to watch movies that are based in the 90s. It’s incredibly nostalgic and it’s funny to see how it’s characterized by people today, what they choose to include to try and hammer home that it’s the ’90s. Dan is based in our time, or maybe slightly earlier like 2018, and the woman who’s tape he is watching is in the ’90s.

IMDB gave this a 7.6, I almost never go higher than IMDB, I’m most often a half a point or point lower, but this time I’m going over, 8.0/10 from me. I agree more with the Rotten Tomatoes score of 88%