Archive 81 review: Was archived footage of Archive 81 scary?

Storage 81 opens up to a woman begging for the camera, frantically begging her through the distortion shot off by a mid-’90s cam. The frame is cramped. There is flickering and black noise lines. In the meantime, we’re getting ready for a series of films that deal with the limitations of the old media and the things that can hide in its flickering loopholes. The footage in question appears to be part of an anthropological project about the residents of the Visser apartment building, and it is being restored by an analog enthusiast Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie) on the orders of a benefactor. shifty. He had to do it in a remote facility because the ice was too damaged to transport, burned in a fire that destroyed Visser.

The woman is Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi), a graduate student responsible for much of the shooting. At first, we only see her through the grainy video she shot, a stark contrast to the sharp, current scenes of Dan fiddling with his tools, removing duct tape and disassembling ink cartridges. with his gloved hands. As the movie goes on and Dan repairs and then digitizes each tape, he learns what she learns: Visser plays the host of a supernatural cult.

But before that, Storage 81 do something unexpected. Less than half way through the first episode, we suddenly leave the confines of Melody’s viewfinder and watch her point the camera around a New York City street. The pretentiousness of the footage was found melted away, raw picture quality at the expense of a past whose clarity barely differs from the show’s color-saturated present. It’s a jarring contrast in every wrong way that shows the show is coming: an explosive narrative with provocative potential that largely missed the opportunity to use multiple media forms to their fullest. of them.

Melody turns herself in the mirror in a still image from Archive 81

Photo: Netflix

Admittedly, the golden age of point-and-shoot movies has long since passed. The genre is oversaturated by cheap derivative films that tend to come out in October and January. Today, this format is only occasionally proliferated, often to supplement another story told in a more traditional format, such as Storage 81. Certainly the format has its limitations and it’s not hard to imagine that Storage 81The half-doing of the footage found could be a concession to those limitations – the podcast it’s based on is made up entirely of cosmic recordings.

The footage was found to be rarely scrutinized, either because small details like musical cues were inexplicable, or because it rarely gave anyone a good reason to continue. continue filming instead of letting go of the camera and rationally running outside. Sensitive conversations are captured frequently and effortlessly through slightly open doors and the camera is always falling in such a way that we can still see horrible, scary things that the cameraman couldn’t face. . Better, maybe, for Storage 81 to get rid of much of that instead of fixing the potential shortcomings and the strain of justifying why someone would have a camera in every shot.

But the show’s solution doesn’t solve that dilemma – it’s fascinating, in fact, requiring us to watch Melody awkwardly holding her camera everywhere. From a typical first-person perspective, it’s not something we think about very often. From the outside, it’s eerie to watch someone point her camera at the curious people on board with the invasion being filmed.

However, we empathize with Melody a little more when we can actually see her, instead of just seeing her in the mirror and hearing the voice behind the camera. The series presents a supporting character entirely through found footage, which seems like a concession the format works in terms of creating atmosphere, but not so much when stretched across eight episodes. . If we need to care about Melody, we need to see her. And as we see and identify with her, moments like another dinner guest stroking her own face add an extra layer of concern. We fear what might happen to that person Melody more than we might fear Melody as a depersonalized voice behind the camera.

Two characters from Archive 81 talking to each other in the bedroom

Photo: Clifton Prescod / Netflix

However, if done properly, the horror in the shot can be incredibly effective, breaking with filmmaking conventions that we’ve become numbed to through multiple exposures. Not just a movie like Koji Shiraishi Noroi: Curse capitalizing on the imperfections of old media, it builds a streamlined world by interlacing footage from eclectic formats like game shows, using on-screen text to represent Show yourself in a slightly sensational amateur mode before the really weird things happen. One of the characters is even an actress playing herself.

Similarly, Blair Witch Project was famously supplemented by a television documentary that treats the events as real, including interviews and documentaries that carefully build a believable plot. Moves like these work even better with less effort: The Poughkeepsie Tape presents itself as a true-crime documentary that intersperses the serial killer’s gruesome family drama into the action, while Tunnel uses interviews and security camera footage as it follows a team of ill-fated messengers.

The best uses of found footage engage us to the point where we stop thinking about their little tricks and ignorance, and even use these obstacles to their advantage or deal with them frankly. The main character of Murder Death Koreatown being made obnoxious because he’s constantly filming when he really shouldn’t. Diary of the Dead includes a narration from the film editor, who explains what camera was used, and why she added music for effects.

Above all, however, the presence of a film camera handled by the characters on screen makes us all aware of what we can. Not to be seen. This format creates free space for something to lurk inside, while remaining out of the frame. A limited POV is very claustrophobic and it can make us feel appropriately trapped. We fear what we imagine is being hidden and this is what makes Storage 81 as a potential fertile ground for this format. The series not only made found footage, but also used footage found to have many of the flaws of older shooting methods, such as silent films from the 1920s or clips shot with Short-lived black and white camera for kids. The format excels at giving the impression that the viewer is there movie space. We find this best in Storage 81Early episodes, when the series would show things like Melody setting up interviews, or sneaking content in her own apartment. But as the series goes on, the eerie image of the past filtered through the camera appears less and less, as if it were nothing more than a buffer between sequences of flashbacks.

Dan watches the Melodies in Stills video from Repository 81

Photo: Netflix

That sounds like a complicated problem, but the problem isn’t necessarily about logic. In the concept of the program, it makes more or less sense; The more Dan watched footage of Melody, the more fascinated he became, to the point where he began to have visions of her. We can rationalize flashbacks as clear as day as the ones he sees in his mind; he is filling in the blanks.

But that’s the problem with Storage 81. By allowing us to not only see outside the camera view, but also see it very clearly, the program fills in all the gaps. Clear visions of its past are far less atmospheric than those of its dead. They lack the suggestive power that helps create the fear of horror fiction. Think of something like Rings, with rotten videotape with distorted images and sound. It looks like a horrible portal to another place. Then, when a hairy monster crawls out of the still television and becomes reality, we know exactly what it is. The imperfections and blurriness of old media such as video tapes or old film strips have the effect of obscuring the image on the screen, as if we were trying to view something through a dirty window.

Among indie horror games, it’s common to imitate the style of PlayStation 1-era rudimentary polygons in a similar way – we project fantasy horrors forcefully onto the screen. sparse photos. And in the last year alone, a number of films have taken advantage of similar media to achieve a similar purpose. Intrusion of broadcast signal inspired by the unsolved 1987 signal robbery featuring a man wearing a Max Headroom mask, while Censorship uses cramped aspect ratios and blurry images to tell a story centered on the British “nasty video” moral panic about the availability of violent thrillers on VHS. Empty man, in today’s context, includes a lot of old media. The tension comes from the images, which are, to us, incomplete and unclear. We find something unsettling about these imperfect depictions, in the same way that so many horror movies feature a creepy drawing of a child. We imagine what is not there.

Someone is working on a piece of technology with tools to restore it, taken from above

Photo: Netflix

Melody turns to her camera in a grainy still image from Archive 81

Photo: Netflix

A cultist as he looks at their idol in a still photo from Archive 81

Photo: Netflix

For added effect, the use of blurred footage and blurred images creates a stark and unsettling contrast to our view of the investigator sifting through them. The camera of a movie or TV show tends to push these images in until they become grotesque, like they weren’t used to looking so long at such a close distance. The world shouldn’t be so still, so motionless; Under extended observation, unnatural qualities become more and more apparent until all we notice. Storage 81 appear to be, to some extent, aware of this effect because it does the same trick. Most TV episodes even open with period renditions of things like ’90s news, movie reviews, or even black and white. Twilight Zone imitator. We like to see shapes in static and noise. But just as the show reduces the distortion of flashbacks in footage, in season 1 these moments are just buffers, a taste that wears off quickly.

There’s a certain irony to the fact that a Netflix exclusive series itself predicts the textures of older media formats. Like similar works, Storage 81 ultimately argues that the media has a tactile quality that is not easily replicated with a mouse pointer moving over a folder icon or the interface of a streaming service. It provides intuitive actions and visual interest to a visual medium: Tapes must be removed from the player, scrolls must be changed, file cabinets open, papers flipped. Lots of horror movies have used this to their advantage, including multiple tapes, stacks of documents, darkroom sequences. They provide a physical representation of what a character has done and what they are up against. Perhaps, then, it is appropriate that Storage 81Its first installment never rested its fingers on the strongest points of analog-style horror, which was largely decoy around what ended up being a fairly straightforward horror series.

https://www.polygon.com/22912658/archive-81-found-footage-horror Archive 81 review: Was archived footage of Archive 81 scary?

Aila Slisco

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