A shy video-restoration expert, Dan Turner (Underwater's Mamoudou Athie) is offered a once-in-a-lifetime financial deal to work on a sensitive project for shady businessman Virgil Davenport (Martin Donovan).
The job involves relocating to an isolated compound, where Dan will be restoring and digitising a fragile collection of fire-damaged video tapes.
He soon learns that these tapes, dating from the mid-90s, were part of a doctoral thesis by student Melody Pendras (Altered Carbon's Dina Shihabi) who was compiling an oral history of the eccentric residents of a New York apartment building.
However, as he watches the tapes, not only does Dan discover a personal connection to the unfolding story but he also sees that Melody seemingly stumbled upon a cult operating in the building.
Told over eight, hour-long episodes, Archive 81 is the latest horror offering from Netflix and I have to say upfront it's as creepy as anything.
Based on a podcast (that I was previously unaware of), for my tastes, this is as close to perfection as anything I've seen in a very long time.
I was also quite surprised - going in spoiler-free - how many coincidences there were between elements of Archive 81 and The Last Ritual, an Arkham Horror story by S.A. Sidor, which I read at the end of 2021.
Both involve cults operating in artistic communities, and, as we go deeper down the rabbit hole the backstory of Archive 81 pays a visit to a very Lovecraftian 1920s.
The whole cult throughline has incredible Lovecraftian overtones, which made me immensely happy as the series felt like a clever modernisation of the writings of this hugely important and influential horror story scribe.
With its inclusion of another of my favourite tropes - the hunt for mysterious or cursed films - I was also reminded of the recent comic book mini-series, The Lot (from defunct publisher Bad Idea) and, of course, John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns, and Deadwax.
Initially I'd only planned to watch the first episode (I'd offered to check the show for 'gore content' on behalf of an old friend) of Archive 81, but I was hooked from the get-go.
I binged the whole eight-hour show in a day - with some breaks for 'real life', naturally.
Focusing primarily on Dan's investigation, and then Melody's as a story-within-the-story, some might dismiss Archive 81 as a slow-burner, but it's simply being methodical, with the viewer's close attention being rewarded with subtle clues and foreshadowing.
Some clues are there up front, like the references to Dante's Inferno, with the inclusion of an old film serial called The Circle, and our protagonist, Dan T, being led on this descent into Hell by a gentleman called Virgil.
And I'm sure there were plenty of other references and allusions that I failed to pick up on.
By the end you will come to realise that everything was important. Other properties may boast that "it's all connected" in their rambling franchises, but in Archive 81 it really is.
If I had a small nit to pick it would be the special effects of a certain creature manifestation, but this is a very small quibble and certainly doesn't detract from the incredible, unnerving nature of the show.