Danielle Harris is an actor and director, born in New York on June 1st, 1977. Her career began with roles in various TV series in the mid-’80s, eventually growing to independent films, blockbusters and some notable voice acting. However, it was her participation in a four Halloween films that set the course for Danielle’s fate as a scream queen.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was directed by Dwight H. Little (From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series; et al) and released in October 1988 to great commercial success. Set ten years after the original massacre, Michael Myers is back to kill his seven year-old niece, Jamie (Harris) on Halloween. Danielle beat out several child actresses including Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina the Teenage Witch) to secure her first film role, and subsequently kept her on-set clown costume for years; even going trick or treating as Jamie Lloyd.
Danielle portrayed Jamie again in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989) directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard. The character is mute for half of the film and must escape her masked killer uncle once more. Although Halloween 5 wasn’t as successful as its predecessor, Danielle decided that horror movies were all she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
When it came to Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), Danielle stepped back from reprising her role as Jamie Lloyd due to scripting issues and the low salary offered. It was instead taken on by an older actress, although Danielle can still be seen in ‘The Producer’s Cut’ which offers an alternate ending.
1998 saw Danielle playing goth girl, Tosh, in the slasher Urban Legend directed by Jamie Blanks (Valentine). The film centres around a group of college students who suspect that a series of murders are connected to… urban legends! Tosh is murdered in her bed while her roommate sleeps with headphones in on the other side of the room. It was Danielle’s first return to horror since Halloween 5.
The 2007 Halloween remake re-launched Danielle’s career after a long spell of small-time roles and was the highest grossing film in the Halloween franchise. Initially, director Rob Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects) didn’t want anyone from the previous films involved, but Danielle’s audition changed his mind and she was cast as Annie Brackett. Unlike the original, Annie survives Michael Myers’ brutal attack, only to be finished off by him in Halloween II (2009). Danielle has stated that she had a much harder time with the remakes, which didn’t have the same sense of fun as her childhood roles as Jamie. First-time nude scenes and an abundance of physical violence were difficult for the actress to shake off emotionally.
Also in 2007, Danielle starred in Left for Dead directed by Christopher Harrison: another Halloween-themed horror based on a group of frat boys that are stalked by a machete-toting maniac. She then landed a leading role in 2009’s Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet directed by Frank Sabatella. A group of teenagers uncover the truth about the legend of Bloody Mary after conducting a séance at the grave of a local axe murderer. Word has it that Mary Hatchet will keep returning to kill until she finds her child, Alissa (Harris).
In the same year, Danielle appeared in The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond from director Gabriel Bologna. Nine friends holiday on a private island and discover a game that brings out the worst in all of them. She also starred alongside Robert Englund in the web series Fear Clinic, where a group of young adults visit a clinic to treat their phobias; only for them to seep into a terrifying reality.
In 2010, Danielle took over the leading role of Marybeth in the Hatchet series. Beginning in 2006, the comedic slasher horror series directed by Adam Green sees a group of tourists taking a haunted swamp tour in New Orleans. After getting lost, they find themselves on the run from the disfigured hatchet-wielding legend, Victor Crowley (genre icon Kane Hodder). In Hatchet 2, Marybeth (Harris) returns to the swamp with an army of hunters to put an end to Crowley’s reign of terror; however, it isn’t until Hatchet III (2013) that she learns the secret to ending his curse once and for all.
Again in 2010, Danielle starred in the superior post-apocalyptic vampire flick Stake Land directed by Jim Mickle; and Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer from director Mark Vadik. Further genre credits include ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011), Shiver (2012), Havenhurst aka Resurrection of Evil (2016) and a leading role in See No Evil 2. The 2014 slasher directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska (American Mary) sees hulking psychopath Jacob Goodnight rising from the dead and launching a killing spree in the city morgue, where undertaker Amy (Harris) is celebrating her birthday with friends. Also making an appearance is fellow scream queen, Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps). Although star-billed in meta-slasher Camp Dread (2014), it’s only really a cameo role.
2012 saw Danielle’s directional debut, Among Friends, in which a group of friends attend a murder mystery-themed dinner party hosted by twisted psychologist, Bernadette (Alyssa Lobit). Having placed secret cameras in various rooms of the house, Bernadette has a history of evidence that shows the group aren’t as close as they all thought. As secrets and betrayals come to the fore, the game turns torturous and Bernadette’s guests soon become her prisoners.
Among Friends is a small production with a simple plot and some satisfactory moments of gore. A mixed bunch of characters keeps it interesting, and while not all are likeable or believable, there’s plenty of wit flowing throughout the dialogue. Slightly Saw-esque in parts, the confined setting and dark humour succeed where comparable low-budget films have failed. Danielle knows how to get the most out of her cast, no doubt injecting her personality and experience into this debut.
Overall, Among Friends is a fun contribution to horror with a cameo from the star herself, wearing the clown costume from Halloween 4. Danielle has expressed her intentions for more directing in the future and hopes to see the horror genre return to its classic roots, rather than the torture themes as popularised over the last decade. Danielle says that the upcoming Joe Dante produced Camp Cold Brook, which follows a paranormal team that check out an abandoned summer camp with a bloody history, has more of that 80s/90s feel.
Inoperable (2016) gave the actress another pleasingly focused central starring role, although the Groundhog Day-style movie itself is a mixed bag.
Danielle has been referred to as ‘horror’s reigning scream queen’ by New York Daily News, as well as being praised by The Soska Sisters and she has featured on the covers of magazines such as Gorezone, Invasion and Scream Sirens. With roles in the aforementioned Camp Cold Brook, and Frankenstein Gothic, Danielle looks set to keep her scream queen crown for some time to come.
Rae Louise, MOVIES & MANIA