Subtle, layered and sometimes with more twists than a labyrinth, Archive 81 on Netflix just might be your new horror fix.
The constant search for a new show that has enough bite to be addictive from the first episode but the staying power to make you want to sit through 10 more episodes is the Holy Grail of Netflix viewing.
Featuring no major actor currently appearing in a Marvel movie or spin-off series (seriously, casting agents need to cast their nets a little wider), the hype that has grown around this low-fi unsettling little drama is purely for the storytelling and talent of its relatively unknown actors.
Which, at this time in this economy, has become rarer than a New York girl who hasn’t gone on a date with West Elm Caleb.
But before you switch off Emily in Paris or whatever other fluff is on right now, be warned. Archive 81 is dense viewing.
Like the podcast that it was based on, Archive 81 relies heavily on the premise of sound: tones, humming, static and whispers.
Add to that multiple timelines, plotlines and storylines that often intersect doesn’t allow for casually watching while working.
Beginning with Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie) an archivist hired by the suspiciously rich Virgil Davenport (Martin Donovan from Ant-Man and Tenet) to “watch some tapes”. (Mate, have you never seen The Ring?)
Just as you’re just getting comfortable with that, Archive 81 jumps back in time to tells the story of Melody Pendras, budding documentarian who has moved into an grimy-looking apartment block, The Visser, on the search for her mother.
Cue a cast of mysterious neighbours, a constant hum coming from a common room and constant talk about a cult that once occupied The Visser all told through the lens of Melody’s peak ‘90s camcorder.
Yes, the found footage genre is a saturated one but where Archive 81 manages to break free is by positioning the audience in the same seat as Dan who it becomes clear is an unreliable narrator.
Are the things he sees in the footage actually there? Or is Melody’s paranoia feeding his own mental health issues, exacerbated by being isolated for days at a time as he works.
Based on the podcast of the same name, Archive 81 at times twists itself around its own pathways and narratives.
But when you think it’s in danger of devouring itself in its ambition it eases back and lets the story again unfold.
While plans for season two are yet to be revealed, the show ends with some huge questions left unanswered.
Archive 81 is now showing on Netflix.