‘Archive 81’ is a horror story told through vintage VHS tapes. When archivist Dan Turner begins watching tapes salvaged from a fire, he is sucked into a decades-long supernatural mystery. Through all the ancient cults and time-bending dark magic on the show, one particular piece of pop culture, titled ‘The Circle,’ stands out. Interestingly, both Dan and Melody see versions of ‘The Circle,’ albeit under very different circumstances. So what is ‘The Circle,’ and how does it tie into the ‘Archive 81’ narrative? Let’s find out! SPOILERS AHEAD.
What is The Circle in Archive 81?
‘The Circle’ is a rare vintage film from 1958 that Dan Turner watches in the series’ opening episode after salvaging one of the last remaining copies of it. The film, made by acclaimed director William Crest, never aired and depicts a ritualistic ceremony in which one of the participants is killed.
It is not until we are taken to Melody’s 1994 timeline do we begin to understand the true significance of ‘The Circle.’ At a dinner party organized by her eccentric neighbor, Melody is introduced to Evie Crest, daughter of William Crest. Evie reveals that her father based ‘The Circle’ on a video he watched that depicted an actual ceremony with a human sacrifice.
As it is later revealed, the video that ‘The Circle’ is based on is a recording of the Vos Society ritual from 1924. During the ceremony, the cult’s leader, Iris Vos, sacrifices her young maid, Rose, and subsequently opens a doorway to the “other world.” According to Evie, her father made ‘The Circle’ after watching a recording of the Vos Society ritual. Hence, the vintage film is a stylized version of a real blood magic ritual that the director saw.
Is The Circle a Real Snuff Film?
No, ‘The Circle’ is not an actual snuff film. In fact, ‘The Circle’ is revealed to be a piece of fictional cinema made by a director (William Crest) inspired by a seemingly real video in which a person, namely the maid named Rose, is killed. So if ‘The Circle’ is not a snuff film because of its fictional nature, what about the allegedly real video from 1924 that it is based on?
Snuff films are essentially videos or films that claim to feature an actual homicide or death and are supposedly circulated for commercial or entertainment purposes. The video of the Vos Society ritual, though it features the death of a person on screen, is technically not made with the intention of making a snuff film. The video, it is revealed, is part of the meticulous recordings and photographs taken during the ceremony to document the presence of supernatural entities that remain hidden to the naked eye but show up on film.
We also find out that William Crest watched the video at a party, meaning that though the Vos Society video was not technically meant to be a snuff film, it later became popular as an underground entertainment piece. Thus, the video that ‘The Circle’ is based on was not intended to be a snuff film when it was shot in 1924.
However, by the 1950s (which is around when William Crest watched it), the infamous Vos Society video seems to have taken on the “entertainment” aspect that a snuff film is allegedly supposed to have. Of course, please note that William Crest’s ‘The Circle’ and the Vos Society video are fictional parts of the Netflix show ‘Archive 81’ and do not exist in real life.
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