Archive 81

Archive 81

Directed by: Rebecca Thomas, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead

Written by: Evan Bleiweiss, Paul Harris Boardman, Bobak Esfarjani, Helen Leigh, Michael Narducci, Rebecca Sonnenshine

Starring: Mamoudou Athie, Dina Shihabi, Evan Jonigkeit, Julia Chan, Ariana Neal, Matt McGorry, Martin Donovan, Daniel Johnson, Kate Eastman, Charlie Hudson III, Kristin Griffith, Johnna Leary, Eden Marryshow, Trayce Malachi, Jaxon Rose Moore, Sol Mirande, Martin Sola

Reviewed by: Brad Williamson

Genre: Horror, Cult

Score: 3.5/5

This new offering attracts people with James Wan’s name, but he neither writes nor directs a single episode; still, it has his signature style imprinted everywhere. The mystery and intellectual effort to solve unknown problems, interesting history, horror through mood and setting rather than cheap scares, good acting by a tight cast, and originality ooze throughout each episode in subtly different ways. It would have been nice for him to handle the concluding episodes, where the show is weakest, yet the series remains a solid, unique, and entertaining horror-mystery.

The show starts with a seemingly haphazard introduction, but the loose ends are quickly explained, progressing in a very natural and intriguing manner. Of all the shows to compare with, I was reminded of Lost due to the multiple timelines and method of storytelling. Fans of time distortion, cults, and paranormal events through technology will all find something to love.

Archive also gives us a great take on found footage. Instead of filming entire scenes as found footage, it cues the clips with a short, shaky intro before transitioning to normal shots. This is easier on the eyes, and stomach, while maintaining the mood of found footage. In this way, it is utilized as a helpful and well-conceived narrative device and is never an artistic crutch.

The pacing is amazing, probably the best aspect of Archive. It knows what it wants to say, when it wants to say it, and how quickly it wants to communicate the information. Due to this great pace, unobtrusive filmmaking, captivating story and plot details, and unique story elements I was fully engrossed from beginning until the…beginning of the end.

With the concluding two episodes, it’s as if the showrunners let go of everything they’ve embraced during the rest of the show. The pacing skids to a halt, even reversing backwards and the story becomes uninteresting and boring, distracting us from what we’ve invested time into, rewarding us with scenes we care nothing about.

With a more cohesive, complete, and interesting conclusion, this show could have been nearly perfect, but the end is such a glaring hole it damages the overall experience. That said, it’s still a respectable and very good series that I recommend to fans of horror, mystery, and moody pieces.

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