Netflix cancels critically-acclaimed horror series after just one season

Archive 81, canceled by Netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix has canceled Archive 81 after just one season. 

The horror series, which debuted on the streaming service at the start of 2022, had drawn good reviews from critics, with an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but that has not been enough to earn it a second season. 

Loosely based on a podcast of the same name, Archive 81 followed film restorer Dan Turner as he is hired by a powerful businessman to digitize a series of burned tapes and reconstruct the work of documentary filmmaker Melody Pendras and her investigation into a dangerous cult. 

Naturally, as he works, Turner finds himself drawn into Melody’s story, leading to him becoming convinced he can save her from the spine-chilling demise she met 25 years ago.

An eight-part drama, it was billed by Netflix as a must-watch for horror fans, but clearly not enough of them did...

Is the cancelation of Archive 81 a surprise?

It really is. Not only did critics like the show, TechRadar included, but it hit all the marks you'd normally expect a show to do to earn a second season. 

As Deadline reports, upon release, the show found its way into both Nielsen and Netflix’s weekly Top 10 ratings for originals, even making the top spot among Netflix's US subscribers for a while.  

As well as that, the show had some serious creative weight behind it. Stranger Things director Rebecca Thomas took charge of half the episodes and horror king James Wan was among the executive producers. 

Netflix really is brutal these days. 

Analysis: What do you have to do to earn a second season on Netflix?

Hit the ground running. The fallout from recent stories about the streaming giant's decisions to cancel shows has yielded two things. One, Netflix wants a lot of people to watch your show, which is something of a given. Second, they want a lot of people to watch it quickly so they can move on to the next thing. 

When Netflix axed The Babysitters' Club, granted a show with a very different audience to Archive 81, showrunner Rebecca Shukert sat down with Vulture to explain what had happened. She said that the streaming giant doesn't just care how many people watch your show, but how they do so. 

She said: "Completion rates are a big deal. At Netflix, it’s more about if your show works on the platform than if the platform is working for your show. They want people to watch it a certain way, and they want shows that people will watch that way — not shows that people want to watch in their own way."

Does this suggest the future for Netflix is more one-offs? Like April's forthcoming glossy political drama Anatomy of A Scandal or the limited series Inventing Anna? Maybe. But it's definitely getting harder and harder to win a second season.

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…