Netflix adds to its queue of creepy, macabre series with “Archive 81,” a time-bending thriller that counts horror director James Wan among its producers. Those eager for quick answers won’t find them, but the eight episodes plant enough bizarre seeds to effectively lure audiences through its fun-house mirror.
Archivist Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie) gets recruited to reconstruct a collection of videotapes damaged in an apartment fire during the 1990s, hired by a mogul, Virgil (Martin Donovan), who might as well have “There’s More Going On Here” stamped across his forehead.
Screening the footage in a remote location where the tapes are stored, Dan gets pulled deeper and deeper into the experience of a documentary filmmaker who shot them, Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi). Her experiences take center stage most of the time, flashing back to her hanging around the building, trying to avoid suspicions while examining rumors of some sort of cult operating there.
The more Dan watches, the more the lines between past and present, between fantasy and reality, begin to blur, with the grainy video — and glitches that hint at the supernatural — compounding the difficulty in keeping them separate.