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Archive 81 Star Dina Shihabi Reveals The Two Scenes That Gave Her Nightmares

Spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched Archive 81, so be warned if you’re included in that bunch!

As opposed to the many horror projects out there that have prioritized bloody visuals and gore above all other familiar genre trappings, Netflix’s binge-worthy frightfest Archive 81 put a similar amount of emphasis on its audio design and sound editing as a way to keep viewers on edge. Not that it wasn’t visually creepy as well, from the found-footage elements to the digital demon Kaelego to the doomed séance. As it happens, Archive 81 was as successful with giving one of its stars nightmares as it was with freaking out streaming audiences on the whole.

Ahead of quickly becoming one of the best shows on Netflix, where it’s currently the second-most watched piece of content on the service, CinemaBlend spoke with lead actress Dina Shihabi about bringing this dark and twisted tale into our 2022 timeline. For me, one of the most horrifying sequences of the entire series came in the second half of Episode 2, when Melody spied on Samuel’s cult in the community room as they hummed and moaned the notes from the show’s signature tune. (My skin is getting all crawly just at the thought of it.) And it turns out Shihabi was equally disturbed during the filming of that scene, to the point where viewing the finished product had a similar effect. Here’s how she put it: 

I was scared. And this is being completely honest, I was scared on set when I first heard the sound of the breathing and that kind of ritualistic singing. It creeped me out, and it gave me nightmares. And then watching the show, I got genuinely scared even though I'd heard it before, I'd seen it, I was there shooting it. Watching it scared me and gave me nightmares again. And so maybe I'm just such a scaredy cat and everything scares me or, you know, they did a good job in executing it, because it was creepy on the day, and in the final product.

While it wasn’t the last time Archive 81 featured characters vocalizing the haunting tune, it was the largest group of people to do so, making it all the more unnatural to witness. What I absolutely do NOT want to see or hear in 2022 is an arena or stadium full of Archive 81 fans breaking a world record for the largest number of people rhythmically whirring at once. Do not make this happen, universe. 

It had to be a wild situation for Dina Shihabi and the rest of the actors filming that scene. At least Melody wasn’t part of the group, so she didn’t have to take part in the noise-making herself. But I do wonder how being part of the faux cult itself was for the actors, and whether or not they were equally disturbed during each take, either by the haunting sounds or by Evan Jonigkeit’s sinister creepiness as Samuel. And whether or not any of them kept humming the damned thing to themselves ad nauseum like I did after watching. 

Samuel and cult members in seance on Archive 81

(Image credit: Netflix)

Of course, what is a frightful set of sounds without some hallucinatory visuals to go along for the ride? The Netflix Original horror from showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine and executive producer James Wan definitely serves up some freaky eye candy — in the sense of a Reese’s cup half-covered with cobwebs — to go along with all the aural disquiet. Arguably the coolest of these visuals is the increasingly spreading mold that infects the Visser and beyond, with the dark spirals seemingly breathing at times and showcasing an unexplainable color scheme that brought to mind rainbows appearing in oil slicks.

Episode 6 put the influential growth in the metaphorical spotlight when Melody took a trip down to the mold-covered basement, where of course Samuel was also there to make the mold seem more approachable in comparison. And it turns out this particular set was also responsible for giving Dina Shiabi some night frights. In her words:

I have so many cool things to say about it. Should I just dive in? Because you know the scene where I go into the room and I finally am touching the mold on the walls? They built this whole 360 room. It was like an art installation. It was so beautiful. And I thought that was really interesting that this thing that represents so much darkness was gorgeous and actually, I imagined, pulls you towards it. It almost has this, like, power that lures you in. But I had nightmares of mold while shooting the show. Yeah, it was weird. I would wake up and go to set, and I'm like, 'I had another dream where my whole house was filled with mold, and I was coughing up mold,' and it was constantly getting into my psyche, which was creepy. Yeah, ugh, it's like it really messed with my head.

Honestly, until she said all of that, I had managed to keep at bay thoughts of the mold actually being inside my body. But never again, I guess. I can only hope that if the series gets renewed for Season 2, that Rebecca Sonnenshine & Co. don’t find new ways to make that mold so mentally contagious. Wait, unless that means they come up with an even more ghastly substance to introduce…

Archive 81 fans are currently waiting to hear whether or not Netflix will pick the show up for Season 2. We learned from the showrunner that some characters’ fates were left unexplained with the purpose of having questions to answer if and when the series would return for more episodes, which also goes for other details from the first eight episodes that weren’t fully explored. She also confirmed what viewers should take away from Dan’s final scene, even if it doesn’t subdue the confusion much. Now let’s just convince Netflix to keep things rolling so we can find out what’s happening next.

Archive 81 can be streamed in its eight-episode entirety on Netflix now, and while waiting to hear about Season 2, be sure to check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see what other horror-leaning debuts are on the way.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.