file 81

Photo: series poster

The old literary resource of framed narration, based on supernatural and paranormal phenomena, has become fashionable in audiovisual production. Does anyone remember the suggestive passages of Manuscript found in Zaragoza, by the Polish count Jan Potocki, which was published in 1805, and introduces the reader to an intricate labyrinth of mythical stories that overlap the initial narration? How can we forget that the famous Frankensteinby Mary Shelley, is based on the letters that the character Margaret Saville receives from her brother Robert Walton, who in turn heard the story of the doctor Victor Frankenstein and through his mouth the story that the creature tells him?

In audiovisual terms, the technique has been baptized as found footage, footage or found recordings on which one or several stories are built. Films and documentaries have been made from the found footagea lot of hogwash but also paradigmatic examples such as The Blair Witch Project (1999), an American film with a very low budget and robust imagination by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. The fiction is based on amateur material supposedly filmed by three young people in 1994, who were following in the footsteps of the Blair witch in Maryland. The young people disappeared and the material is the film with its enigmas.

On that rope moves file 81, which aired late at night on Multivisión. Among the producers, James Wan, a fan of terror, president of the Atomic Monster company, whom, by the way, Netflix left hanging from the brush, with the saga of this miniseries. Hence the doubt about its end. Lead filmmaker Rebecca Sonneshine masters the ins and outs of fantasy narrative and thriller psychological, even when there are gaps in the plot development that have nothing to do with the unexpected cancellation of the second season, but rather with inconsistencies in the dramatic flow.

It is a pure and hard framed narrative that places us the young restorer of the Museum of the Image in New York, Dan Turner (Mamadou Athie), in front of the VHS tapes filmed by Melody Penras in 1994, in the Visser building, under the pretext to investigate for a thesis, when in reality he wants to know the fate of his mother. The tapes barely survived the building fire. A far from transparent businessman, Virgil Davenport (Martin Donovan), commissions Dan to restore the material.

Then, concealment and speculation follow one another, the pendulum between the here and the beyond, a variety of characters in which no one is who they say or appear to be; and time jumps between 1994 and the present day, bringing Dan and Melody closer together as the truth slips through their fingers.

Since none of this explains what happened, Sonneshine and the writers devote an entire chapter to tracing the origin of things to 1924, thus giving the allure of unforeseen jumps in time a coup de grace; while Melody is given a counterfigure by a painter friend, and Dan, a filmmaker podcast that does not lose foot or step. One and the other try to balance the rationality of a story that does not need rational thought.

Something inciting remains file 81: the desire to rediscover Horace P. Lovecraft, master of the American narrative of horror and mystery. The Kaelego of the miniseries is a direct relative of Cthulhu.

file 81