The Mysteries of the Visser

Netflix’s new original series Archive 81 is a hidden mystery that demands viewers to discover it.


Archive 81 offers an intriguing story with unlimited twists and turns.

Anna Parsons, Senior Staff Writer

An apartment building is usually no more than bricks and residential rooms and not given too much thought. However, the fictional Visser apartment building from Netflix’s new original series Archive 81 is occupied by a resurrected cult from the 1920s, hiding behind its simplistic exterior. A PhD student, whose tapes are restored by a film archivist 25 years later, is drawn to uncover the secrets that lie inside the complex residential building within the complex new series. 

Opening in the present day, Dan Turner, a film archivist, is hired to restore destroyed video tapes from PhD student Melody Pendras’s video essay regarding the Visser Apartment building back in 1994. Shortly after Melody’s project, the building burned down in a mysterious fire, prompting Turner’s job of restoring the tapes in order to discover the secrets of the fire and the building. 

The parallels between two different time periods and, later on in the season, three time periods, create an interesting complexity to the series and differentiates the series from usual horror shows. Although there are events happening 25 years apart, the way in which they interact and connect creates the suspense and thrill of the horror series. 

Each time Turner watches another one of Melody’s tapes, a new piece to the puzzle is revealed, building the complexity of the series in an unusual way. In the first few episodes, the mystery behind the apartment building isn’t straightforward, leaving room for numerous theories as to what is occurring. Yet, it’s not unsatisfying or annoying, but almost more intriguing, leaving room for guesswork as to what the real secrets could be. 

Filmed in Pittsburgh but set in New York City, Archive 81 has a mostly urban setting. However, the hustle and bustle of the city setting creates an interesting atmosphere of secrets amid the underlying chaos. Even though there are so many people and so much happening around the apartment building, no one seems to be fully aware of the mysteries of the Visser. The viewer knows the story, while the people around seem to be clueless as to what is happening, creating abundant dramatic irony.

Archive 81 has also allowed for many local actors and actresses to have an opportunity to be in a Netflix series, one of whom is actress Daina Griffith, who plays Gabby, an art gallery owner. 

Not only is Archive 81 a thrilling series that leaves viewers at the edge of their seats at the end of each episode, but it has also allowed unique opportunities for local actors to work during strange times.”

“Generally, you only film one and half to two and a half pages of the script a day. The day begins in a makeup chair at 4:00 AM, and you are home after midnight that same day,” Griffith said. “Two and a half pages of dialogue in a film or television show is about ten minutes of the final product. So to film ten minutes, it takes around 12 to 16 hours. It’s very long hours, which always surprises people.”

Archive 81 was also filmed in the middle of the pandemic making for a very unusual on-set experience. 

“There was a saying going around last year when Netflix started filming shows again that said, ‘The safest place in America right now is on a Netflix set’ because of the incredible amount of money spent on supplies and testing,” Griffith said. “Everyone wore masks and face shields at all times, and only the actors would take them off as production would yell, ‘Rolling!’ As soon as they would call “Cut!, a wardrobe person would come running out with our mask and face shield, and then we were taken to different areas of the room to isolate.”

But even with the difficulties and unusualness of filming during a pandemic, working on Archive 81 was a wonderful experience for Griffith. 

“Everyone was very nice and all of the other actors, when we were allowed to speak to each other, were very kind,” she said. “It was a super fun, long day, just like they always are!”

Not only is Archive 81 a thrilling series that leaves viewers at the edge of their seats at the end of each episode, but it has also allowed unique opportunities for local actors to work during strange times. The interesting and compelling mystery hidden behind closed doors makes for a great binge-watching experience.