Scary, time-bending Netflix drama, ‘Archive 81’ premiere!


“Archive 81,” a time-bending thriller produced by horror director James Wan, joins Netflix’s growing list of eerie, horrific shows.

The eight episodes sow enough strange seeds to effectively lure spectators through its fun-house mirror. But those looking for quick solutions won’t find them.

During the 1990s, archivist Dan Turner is hired to reassemble a collection of videotapes. These were damaged in an apartment fire.

Dan is drawn deeper and deeper into the experience of a documentary filmmaker who filmed the recordings, Melody Pendras. Much of the time, her experiences are front and center; with flashbacks of her loitering around the building.

The borders between past and present, fantasy and reality, begin to blur the more Dan watches, with the grainy footage; and flaws that hint at the supernatural — increasing the difficulty in keeping them distinct.

With a film like “Archive 81,” the issue is to make sure the terror builds up gradually. Enough that Melody and Dan don’t run screaming into the night; before we get to the “What’s actually going on?” phase.

That balancing act is done, maybe inevitably, by creator Rebecca Sonnenshine’s use of dreams, fake-outs, and other twists that create just enough fog for the investigators to continue.

The reward for those who persevere is that, once the explanation begins to take shape, it proves to be quite compelling; presenting a rich backdrop and prospects for continuing the drama beyond this first volley.

“Archive 81” explores classic horror themes such as whether seeing is truly believing and how evil can hide in plain sight. There are problems along the way, but compared to some recent entries in this genre (hello, “Brand New Cherry Flavor”), there aren’t enough to make you hit the “eject” button.

Netflix’s “Archive 81” premieres on January 14th.