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Netflix's Archive 81 - What We Know So Far

The found footage subgenre has been a staple of horror for decades. The film that started the trend is the 1980 cult classic "Cannibal Holocaust," but the movie that's often credited with making it so popular is 2001's "The Blair Witch Project," about a team of indie filmmakers venturing out into the woods to track a legendary witch. Since then, movies like "Cloverfield," "Rec," and the "V/H/S" series have taken the genre in new directions.

The reason found footage works so well is because of the unique way it uses the camera. Unlike characters in a traditional movie, the ones in found footage movie are also the camera operators. They're experiencing the story in real time, creating a sense of immediacy that other horror films just can't equal. At the same time, many found footage horror movies and shows can feel formulaic. They often follow the same general plot: a crew of unsuspecting documentarians ventures into a dangerous situation where they meet their doom. The ending is often a foregone conclusion: the footage is the only surviving evidence of what they went through, etc. 

Here's a found footage horror series with a fresh take on the formula: the upcoming Netflix series "Archive 81." It's based on the popular podcast of the same name, and its premiere is just around the corner. Here's everything we know so far.

What is the release date for Archive 81?

As reported by Bloody Disgusting, "Archive 81" finally has an official premiere date: January 14, 2022. Season 1 will consist of eight hour-long episodes that will all drop at once, in Netflix style.

The original podcast launched in April 2019 and currently has three seasons. It was created by Marc Sollinger and Daniel Powell. Before creating "Archive 81," Sollinger worked as a radio journalist (via WGBH), while Powell was a freelance sound engineer (via Rome News-Tribune). They'll be serving as co-producers on the TV series.

Netflix ordered "Archive 81" to series in October 2020 (via The Hollywood Reporter). Filming took place between late 2020 and early 2021 in Western Pennsylvania before wrapping in March (via The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). "Archive 81's" filming took place around the same time that Netflix filmed the Sandra Oh comedy series "The Chair," which was also filmed in Western Pennsylvania. 

Who is in the cast of Archive 81?

As reported by Deadline, the two leads will be played by Mamoudou Athie ("Jurassic World: Dominion") and Dina Shihabi ("Altered Carbon"). They'll be playing Dan Turner, an archivist, and Melody Pendras, a documentary filmmaker, respectively – more below. 

The rest of the cast includes Ariana Neal as Jess, Evan Jonigkeit as Samuel, Julia Chan as Anabelle, Matt McGorry as Mark, Martin Donovan as Virgil, Daniel Johnson as Visser Tenant, Kate Eastman as Tamara Stefano, Kristin Griffith as Cassandra Wall, Johnna Leary as Visser Tenant, Charlie Hudson III as Steven Turner, Eden Marryshow as John Smith, Trayce Malachi as Young Dan, and Jaxon Rose Moore as Emily Turner (via Netflix Life).

"Archive 81" will be directed by "Stranger Things'" Rebecca Thomas, who will also executive produce. James Wan ("Saw," "The Conjuring") is producing via his company, Atomic Monster. The showrunner will be Rebecca Sonnenshine, who previously wrote on "Vampire Diaries," and "The Boys" 

What is the plot of Archive 81?

"Archive 81" is loosely based on the podcast of the same name, but the series will tell an original story. Here's the logline, via Deadline

"When archivist Dan Turner (Athie) takes a mysterious job restoring a collection of damaged videotapes from 1994, he finds himself reconstructing the work of documentary filmmaker Melody Pendras (Shihabi) and her investigation into a dangerous cult. As Dan is drawn into Melody's story, he becomes convinced he can save her from the terrifying end she met 25 years ago."

That's where "Archive 81" differs from most found footage horror. This time, "Archive 81" also follows the people who find the "found footage," which turns out to be the key to the whole mystery.

In terms of tone, showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine ("Vampire Diaries," "The Boys") had this to say: "With Archive 81, we're hoping to give the supernatural horror genre a new twist — while keeping a dark, deeply emotional romance as its core. Alongside the talented Mamoudou Athie and Dina Shihabi, and visionary partners Atomic Monster and Rebecca Thomas, I'm excited to take Netflix viewers on a terrifying and visually thrilling adventure."