Danyell Harris: Our Scream Queen
Horror is a fringe category. We all know that. For actors especially, it is largely thankless and somewhat less respected genre. If you are lucky enough to appear in a franchise or more than one horror film there is very little chance that you will ever break out of that mold and become a Jamie Lee Curtis or a…see what I mean? It’s a difficult, and in the terms of “Hollywood” acting, it’s a lonely place. You aren’t at the Chateau on Saturday night with Lohan and you aren’t winning BAFTAs. Very few actors commit to these types of films for very long especially women not tied to one specific franchise. Enter Danielle Harris. For 26 years now she has committed to being beaten, raped, tortured, bound, and killed at least 19 times. I don’t feel this is out of necessity. She’s neither unattractive nor incapable in front of a camera, quite the opposite actually.Yet still, she continues to put out quality work in one of the most physically, and emotionally demanding aspects of filmmaking, and we are damn lucky have her.
Look at the paralyzing fear in that face. Even at 10 years old in Halloween 4 she knew what she was doing. I know it’s a horror movie and the fourth one in the series at that, but her performance as a preteen really doesn’t get the credit it deserves. You never feel like you’re watching a kid in a movie, she’s just a character that you believe and care about. Compared to other performances in the film, she’s incredible. “Why didn’t your mom make you a costume, Jamie? Oh wait.” After being made fun of by maybe the worst kids in the history of the world about her dead parents, she runs off and assures herself and says “You’re ok.” That’s some pretty powerful resolve for a ten year old. This pretty aptly describes Danielle herself.
When Rob Zombie was directing his remake of the classic Halloween from 1978, he made it very clear that he did not want any of the original cast in his version. Eager to introduce herself to a new audience, Danielle and her management went straight to the head of Dimension and got all she wanted, an audition. It worked. She not only got into the movie, she put her trademark stamp on it.
Over the years Ms. Harris became much less of a survivor and much more of a thriver. In films like Hatchet 2, its sequel and See No Evil 2, she became much more of a problem for the killers, and much more violent. When it came time to film her scene with Mike in Zombie’s Halloween, she told 6’7 Tyler Mane, the actor playing Meyers, to put on pads, because she was going to beat the shit out of him. Confused, he went on and filmed the scene. He didn’t understand how not only experienced Danielle was with these types of scenes, but how visceral she was. She’s playing a girl that is facing her death and she’s not going to jog up the stairs completely ignoring the front door, or give up when he gets a hand on her. She beat and bruised him during the scene and actually made it away from him and out of the house. In the script, she was not supposed to get away. She physically kicked, clawed and ripped herself away from the gargantuan man playing Michael, and Rob Zombie loved it. He kept the scene as it was, completely opposing the script that said it was time for her character to die. That is Danielle Harris. This year’s See No Evil 2 gives us possibly her best performance to date; thankfully, showing us she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
The term “scream queen” gets thrown around quite a bit. The whole thing with a queen is, there’s only one. She’s not a “scream senator” or a member of “scream parliament.” She is it. Danielle, we thank you, we salute you, and we bow down.