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Dissecting Danielle Harris!

10.13.2015by: Jake Dee

DANIELLE HARRIS!

Danielle Harris is one bad motherf*cker! You know it, I know it, hell, anyone who's ever frequented AITH with any regularity ought to know it. After all, Harris has not only remained one of AITH's most beloved scream queens since our inception back in 2000, her own personal history within the horror genre dates back almost twice as long. True shit, very few actors or actresses we've come across has professed their undying love as proudly and unabashedly as Ms. Harris. She's a legit dedicatee of the cinematic dead, and for that, we'll always love her fine behind. Of course, it starts in 1988 with HALLOWEEN 4, extended to its year-later sequel HALLOWEEN 5 in 1989, and really just blossomed ever since.

No joke, we're talking upward of 80 screen credits Harris as tabulated over her illustrious three-decade career. And you're damn skippy about 90% of those fall into the genre realm - horror, sci-fi, thriller, action, etc. Not saying we don't love her work in THE LAST BOY SCOUT and DON'T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER'S DEAD, because we definitely do (I do anyway), it's just that we absolutely marvel at Harris' intestinal fortitude for returning to the darkest corners that cinema has to offer. And for that reason, we're fixing to pull an act that's far overdue. Yup, you guessed it friends, it's high time we Dissect the decorated genre career of the one, the only Ms. Danielle Harris!

BEST WORK

GET HALLOWEEN 4 & 5 DOUBLE FEATURE HERE

How dare you. With 19 days and counting from all of our favorite holiday, how can could we omit the seasonal salute to all things HALLOWEEN? Couldn't conceive of it. Fortunately, Harris' participation in the hallowed HALLOWEEN franchise falls under two of the better entries in the entire series, HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS and HALLOWEEN 5: MICHAEL MYERS' REVENGE. And frankly, to take it a step further, we'd posit that it's precisely the presence of Ms. Harris that elevates each sequel to the top of the heap. It's her childlike enthusiasm, her adorability, her pure pathos lent to a lethally targeted lead role that so deeply resonates, even now, almost 30 years later.

Her precocious presence in those movies transcended a mere child in distress caricature, and even at 11 and 12 years old, respectively (Harris celebrated both birthdays on the set of each flick), her fully formed and fleshed out performances honestly made us all care about her survival. Seriously, I usually detest little snot nosed tykes in horror flicks, but Harris in HALLOWEEN 4 & 5, no matter how many times I watch them (usually annually), I just want to wrap the poor girl up, hold her tight and safeguard her life from Myers' murderous advances. Who's with me?

As for a trivial aside, word is during the infamous laundry-chute scene in HALLOWEEN 5, little Jamie was supposed to have her leg gorily jousted. However, the MPAA deemed the shot too disturbing and had the scene cut. Harris to this day still owns the prosthetic leg. Cool beans! So too is the fact she for years held onto the clown costume she rocked in HALLOWEEN 4, finally getting rid of it when a super-fan made her a financial offer she couldn't refuse.

But perhaps even more durable than the diegetic sympathy felt for Harris during her HALLOWEEN run, is how both flicks directly attributed to her lifelong love affair with all things horror. Consider the following quote our gal is on record giving: "It was my first movie, so I was more excited about that--just being an actress, never mind being in a horror movie.

At that time I wasn't even a horror movie fan. I did "Halloween 4" and Halloween 5 (1989) back to back, and I decided that horror movies were all I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was going to be my thing."

Oh it's definitely your thing Dani, and we all you a debt of sincere gratitude for it. Not just for your work as Lilliputian final girl in HALLOWEEN, but for what we consider your next best run of successive horror joints...that being your crazily brazen turns in Adam Green's HATCHET II and HATCHET III.

GET HATCHET II HERE

GET HATCHET III HERE

Assuming the mantle left behind by Tamara Feldman in the original, Harris' tortured turn as Marybeth Dunstan ranks right up there with her most emotionally exigent and physically rigorous. And of course, deeply empathetic. Our gal, now all grown up, is put through utter living-hell as she does all she can to escape the converging clutch of the odiously deformed, axe-swinging swamp-man Victor Crowley. Nothing against Feldman, but where the original failed to emotionally connect, Harris pumps heartfelt passion in the character that, much like in HALLOWEEN, tends to escalate the overall impact of the movie. Call it a combo of her acting chops, her adorably slight frame, her experience in genre, her ability to sell a scream...whatever the case, at her best, Harris often dusts her competition and separates herself from the pack.

WORST WORK

GET URBAN LEGEND HERE

It comes with the territory. When you devote your cinematic career to the realm of the macabre, you take it as an occupational hazard that not every credit is going to be an appraised jewel. I'll tell you what though, no matter how atrocious the movie might seem, I've never seen Danielle give a poor performance. Ever. Have you? Hell, whether it's bit parts in big-budgeted studio dreck like URBAN LEGEND or leading roles in ultra-low-budget indie dross like BLOOD NIGHT: THE LEGEND OF MARY HATCHET, THE BLACK WATERS OF ECHO'S POND, HALLOW'S EVE, CAMP BLOOD, etc. - Harris consistently delivers her end of the bargain. She's the one qualitative constant in a filmography of unevenness. She always holds her own. Now, that's not to say she's entirely absolved from some of the choices she's made regarding scripts, but she generally acquits herself quite well, and through no fault of her own beyond saying yes to a certain project, ought to be recognized for it. You hear me del Toro, Raimi, Carpenter, Tarantino...for crying out loud give Harris the plum role she deserves!

TRADEMARKS

GET SHIVER HERE

Where to start. We can cite the long jet black locks, the gorgeous if truncated physique, the exuded inner-strength that her characters often call upon, but in the end, it has to be her horror film omnipresence and eager willingness to continue with onscreen thrills and chills that defies our gal Dani. Not that such fidelity has come without a price. For her work in HALLOWEEN 4 & 5 (could of and should have been part 6 as well, if producers weren't so cheap to meet her asking price), Harris was, in the mid-90s, actually stalked by a real life obsessed fan. The sick sumbitch actually sent her many threatening letters, and was eventually arrested after bearing a shotgun to her own home. Now if that isn't enough to make you stop acting in horror films, I don't know what is. Yet, because of her pure passion for the livelihood horror flicks provided, Harris persisted. That's a true pro right there!

HIDDEN GEMS

GET AMONG FRIENDS HERE

How's this for an unvarnished jewel. The hidden gem we've elected to shine the light of inspection upon doesn't even feature Harris in an acting role. Nope. The movie we think every Danielle Harris completist ought to track down and pop in AMONG FRIENDS, her 2012 feature debut. I had the good fortune of going to the premiere of this movie in Hollywood a few years back, and even gave a favorable review of the joint immediately following. The flick is a wickedly dark horror-comedy that more or less stars a roster of Harris' close friends. We're talking Jennifer Blanc, Alyssa Lobit, Kane Hodder, AJ Bowen, Brianne Davis and Kamala Jones. This sordid sextet, with a few others, become gorily unhinged when a seemingly innocuous dinner party spirals into an unsuspecting bloodbath.

Set in a single apartment, there's an inescapable claustrophobia to the horrific action that I've not quite seen since. For a first time filmmaker, there's an undeniable vim and vigor to the proceeding that even the more seasoned directors fail to achieve. To be honest, I'm a bit shocked Harris hasn't directed a flick since. I'm guessing that has less to do with the quality of the flick and more to do with the precarious nature of indie film releasing. That said, it's clear Harris has as ample talent behind the camera as she does in front of it. Check this one out!

NEXT PROJECTS

As per usual, DH has no less than a promising pair of fright flicks in the fire. The first, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: DARKEST DAWN, actually dropped just last week. Part animation, part live-action, DARKEST DAWN pits Harris against a pretty formidable cast of genre stalwarts that includes Tony Todd, Bill Moseley, Tom Sizemore, as well as Sarah Habel, Luann De Soto, Alona Tal and Madhavan. Peep the basic lowdown below:

A group of survivors trapped in a New York apartment fight to stay alive against legions of zombies.

Doesn't get much more flesh-cut and bone-dry than that, ay? The flick is jointly directed by Zebediah De Soto and Krisztian Majdik, who both make their feature debut after helming a couple of separate shorts. Should be interesting if nothing, not only to see Harris evade a swarm of flesh-starved cadavers, but to also measure this NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD with its venerated lineage. DARKEST DAWN hit the U.S. in limited fashion on October 5th.

The other picture Harris recently wrapped is called HAVENHURST, which comes from a slightly more seasoned director in Andrew C. Erin (TOXIC SKIES, CONFINED). Scope the skinny below:

An alcoholic named Jackie moves into a recovery-themed building, Havenhurst Apartments, where the one rule for tenants is to not revert to destructive old habits. Jackie makes friends with another tenant, an orphan named Sarah, who lives with abusive foster parents and possesses an uncanny knowledge of the terrible acts that occur when the building's rules are broken.

Nice! 2015 sees Harris trapped in a pair of ghoulish and ghastly apartments, what's not to love about that. In HAVENHURST Danielle will be joined by Julie Benz, Toby Huss, Douglas Tait, Fionnula Flanagan and Belle Shouse. The flick has yet to lock a legit release date, but when it does, you'll be the first to know about it. Stay tuned.

OVERALL

Although she's been at it damn near her entire life, Danielle Harris still holds status as one of our favorite new-generational scream queens. Her dogged devotion to horror cinema has made the genre better since bursting onto the scene in 1988. Whether partaking in vaunted horror classics like HALLOWEEN 4 and HALLOWEEN 5, reinventing her image in the HATCHET flicks, directing her own hellish material in AMONG FRIENDS or PRANK, or simply elevating a spate of lesser horror joints with her mere presence - Danielle Harris is now and forever will be one of our favorite to watch. Keep it going Ms. Harris, you're just now hitting your prime. We love you!

Extra Tidbit: Tell us your favorite Danielle Harris moment!
Source: AITH

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