What's So Significant About The Color Red In 'Archive 81'?

- Archive 81 -
What's So Significant About The Color Red In 'Archive 81'?

If Archive 81 left you (literally) seeing red then just know it was most likely intentional. While the creepy new Netflix series generally sticks to cold blues and the grainy, muted style of '70s horror movies, it's impossible not to notice when it employs splashes of red in a scene. Compared to the show's overall color palette, the red flourishes pop and draw the eye in a way that feels both deliberate and important to Dan and Melody's twin journeys.

Red is one of the most prominent colors used in horror movies. From The Shining to the more recent Us, the color often symbolizes blood, rage, and warning signs. Since Archive 81 loves paying homage to the history of horror movies, it's not too surprising to see red cropping up in scenes where Melody and Dan are moving closer to cracking the Kaelego case. But it's used so frequently throughout the season, it feels like more than just an homage by the time the finale rolls around.

While the red doors in the Visser, Samuel's penchant for wearing vermilion, and the shocks of red found throughout the thoroughly unnerving Cassandra's apartment all scream run, I suspect red also signifies the connection between Melody and Dan. Early on in the premiere, Dan realizes Melody knew his dad because he realizes she's in a photo with his dog thanks to a red collar. Likewise, when his dad appears to him, he's wearing a red coat, much like the one Melody's biological mother wears when she makes her presence known to Dan at the compound.

The connection between Dan and Melody is so strong it transcends time and space. Throughout Season 1 they connect with each other whenever they fall into a dream space. Seeing red in a dream can signify all sorts of things, but in this case, I think we should focus on passion and courage. After all, it's apparent that there's a love story brewing between these star-crossed characters.

Even though they only see each other in what they believe are their dreams, Dan and Melody are bound together, and the touches of red that appear whenever they cross time hints at the affection between them. But courage is also an important part of the equation. It's no accident that The Secret of Nimh is Melody's favorite movie. Although it's a cartoon, The Secret of Nimh is full of dark and frightening sequences, many of which leave the screen awash in red.

More importantly, the main character, Mrs. Frisby, is gifted an amulet that glows red with magic whenever she finds the courage to face the many threats to her family's safety. Likewise, both Melody and Dan have to summon courage to pursue the truth behind The Vos Society and its members' nefarious intentions to summon a demon with the power to reshape the world. That could explain why the characters see red in situations common sense tells them to run from. They can only access their own inner power and magic by courageously pursuing the truth about the Visser.

Showrunner Rebecca Sonnenshine clearly has a healthy appreciation for horror movies as evidenced by the mountain of references to the genre in Archive 81. But when it comes to the constant use of red in Season 1, the color transcends being a simple homage to illustrate the magical connection that draws Melody and Dan together.

Images: Netflix

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