ARCHIVE 81. (2022) A NETFLIX HORROR SERIES BASED ON THE PODCAST, ARCHIVE 81, BY DANIEL POWELL AND MARK SOLLINGER. EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY REBECCA SONNESHINE, PAUL HARRIS BOARDMAN AND JAMES WAN OF SAW, INSIDIOUS AND THE CONJURING FAME. STARRING MAMOUDOU ATHIE, DINA SHIHABI, EVAN JONIGKEIT, JULIA CHAN, MATT MCGORRY AND MARTIN DONOVAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. © ‘Stay away from the sixth floor.’ Wow. I loved this series, binge-watching the eight delicious episodes over two nights this week and being left reeling- in a good way!- by the number of horror films, authors and tropes it manages to lovingly reference. It’s the story of a young American man living in the present day called Dan Turner. Dan has terrible sadness and trauma in his past, and he is given a job one day out of the blue that might actually help him to unlock the trauma and even put part of it right, after many years. But not without great personal risk to himself and his mental health, I hasten to add, so it’s not all moonlight and roses. The job is offered to him by one Virgil Davenport, the rich, reclusive billionaire owner of a company called LGM, of which there is very little known in the public domain. The job is to go and stay in LGM’s isolated compound in the Catskills, completely on his own, for as long as it takes him to restore the videotapes of a young woman’s PhD dissertation… Dan is a qualified restorer of nearly-destroyed videotapes, you see, and as we watch the series, we will see why he has such a personal connection to these videotapes and why the enigmatic and omniscient Virgil has hand-picked Dan, a bit of a loose cannon because of his past traumas, for this particular job. We also meet Melody Pendras, the beautiful, dark-haired young college student who, in 1994, takes an apartment in the Visser Building, one of those fabulous old steeped-in-history New York apartment buildings that people are always getting murdered in in films. She does this specifically because she is doing her college dissertation on the Visser Building, its history and its inhabitants, and she is never seen without her camcorder in her hand, the main tool of her trade. She’s not just doing her dissertation purely because of the many attractions of the old Visser Building. She has a personal reason both tragic and seemingly impossible to achieve, and Melody is not the kind of person to give up. She quickly finds out, though, that the Visser Building can be a very scary place to live, and that the exotic, eccentric inhabitants are doing something very sinister and highly suspect in the building’s Community Room every night after midnight. It’s something that harks back to the 1920s and a snuff film starring the beautiful but flawed and ultimately doomed Iris Vos, a member of ‘Twenties society with a very dark secret… Melody finds out also that her own life could be in jeopardy here in the Visser Building, a full seventy years after the awful events occurred that first put the Visser Building on the map. Dan, watching the tapes in the dreadful isolation of the compound, senses too that Melody is in danger, not least from the eerie face that keeps appearing randomly on the videotapes. Who or what is on the tapes? Is it after Dan too, whatever it is, and can Dan, who’s obviously smitten with the gorgeous feisty Melody, travel back in time to save Melody from the horrible fate that awaits her in the shadows…? And, even if he saves Melody, will he be able to save himself from a ghastly half-life lived in the place known as… The Other World…? You’ll have to watch the show till the end to find out, folks… I love the séance in the Visser with all the crazy Visser tenants, like the horrible art collector Cassandra, the tormented psychic Beatriz and the bitchy opera composer Tamara. Not to mention the creepy college professor Samuel Spare, who would pass for a modern-day hipster, but who is clearly the ringleader of whatever it is that goes on in the Community Room after dark… I love the character of Mark Higgins, Dan’s best- and only- friend, who is pretty much the template for every horror-and-science-fiction-crazed megasuperfan ever. He lives for horror and weird stuff and his horror podcast, and the friendship between him and Dan is so real and warm and genuine that he is actually willing to risk life and limb for his tragic friend. I also love Ratty, whom I kind of wish had had an even bigger part, as the friendship between him and Dan was also a thing of beauty and a joy forever. I’ll leave you with a list of the horror films, things and characters either directly referenced in the series or indirectly hinted at, or even things that just came into my own mind as I watched it: Stephen King’s THE SHINING; Jack Torrance; the Overlook Hotel; the maze on the grounds. Stephen King’s DOLORES CLAIBORNE; the Eclipse that brought the whole town out in force to look at it and celebrate it. Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY. H.P. Lovecraft. Christopher Lee. Hammer’s TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER; THE DEVIL RIDES OUT. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. DON’T LOOK NOW; a deliberate reference! Nigel Kneale’s THE STONE TAPES. NIGHT OF THE DEMON, one of Britain’s best-loved horror films. THE WICKER MAN, and anything else featuring a human sacrifice. BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. THE EXORCIST. Andrei Tarkovsky and his cult movie, SOLARIS. WHAT LIES BENEATH; the movie, and the title of Episode 8 of the series. Lin Shaye, beloved horror actress, going into ‘the Further’ in the INSIDIOUS movies. James Wan is one of the executive producers of ARCHIVE 81, after all. PANIC ROOM and ‘90s sitcom FRIENDS, purely for those magnificent old brownstone apartment buildings! That’s all I can think of for now, but there might be more, and you might even spot a few new ones yourself. I just love that this show was created by people with an absolute adoration, respect and obsession for horror; it comes across as a real labour of love when you watch it. Just three further comments; One, I wish THE CIRCLE was a real show, it really speaks to me! Two, my daughter, who was born in the ‘Nineties, and who watched the show with me, was hopping mad that the film-makers of today are now referring to the ‘Nineties as the distant past. It makes her feel old, lol. And three, the show features some highly intelligent and talented ‘mold,’ as the Americans call it, which is capable of forming itself into other-worldly swirls and patterns all by itself. I just want to say that I have exactly similar patches of talented and creative mould behind my toilet, at the back of all the wardrobes and creeping round my bedroom ceiling. If it ever morphs into the portal to another dimension, you guys will be the first to know. If, as is more likely, it just causes me to hallucinate and go permanently off my noodle, well, then, I guess you guys will be hearing about that too.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: