Women in horror. If you ask me, women are the penultimate reason why we should celebrate horror. Horror from a woman’s point of view is the best way that horror can be experienced. Look over horror’s past, and the best stories are centered on women or created by women. When it came down to choosing who to focus on for this month’s Women of Horror month at Nightmare on Film Street, I had a plethora to choose from. It came down to one woman who has been in horror from her young days to the present days. That woman is Danielle Harris.
Harris’s stamp on the genre is huge. I’ve seen maybe 50% of her contributions to the genre so consider me a little overwhelmed when I sat down to figure out what I’d need to watch to get myself at 100%. As of this article, she is 43 years old, and has racked up so many contributions to horror that I wasn’t sure that I would be able to get through them all. That’s not including just projects that she’s acted in. She’s a director and producer, as well. Being the completist that I am, I worked through her filmography to make sure that I give the full Danielle Harris horror film experience that I could give.
It all began in 1988 when Harris portrayed Jamie Lloyd, the daughter of Laurie Strode, in Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers. In that film, she left a lasting impression on the horror community, and she did at all before she turned 10 years old. Jamie’s story continued in the next year’s Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers. It was within Revenge that she gave us the iconic clown costume, and foretold an impact that she would have the within the horror genre. I could go on about her portrayal as Jamie, butt there are many more films to provide.
“[Danielle] Harris’s stamp on the genre is huge.”
Harris’ next foray into horror came in the cult classic, Eerie, Indiana, in the 7th episode of the only (shamefully) season, Heart on a Chain (1991). While Eerie was a kitschy sort of show, this episode tugs at the heartstrings. If her performances in the Halloween sequels didn’t do tug those heartstrings, this episode of television should have done the trick.
Eight years passed before Harris returned to the genre, and when she did, it was in a role that made a lasting mark. 1998’s Urban Legend didn’t feature Harris a lot, but the moments when her character, Tosh, is onscreen are memorable. Who couldn’t relate to sitting in their dorm room on goth chatrooms looking for an on campus hookup only to end up the victim of an urban legend?
Following her being urban legendized, Harris appeared in Charmed’s first season’s seventh episode, The Fourth Sister (1998), as a teenage witch who tries to infiltrate the Halliwell sisters’ coven. It made me wonder what Charmed would have been like if Harris was originally cast as one of the Halliwell sisters.
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In 2007, Harris took the horror scene by storm. It began with reentering the world of Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Not as Jamie, because remake, but as the new Annie Brackett. I’m going to skip ahead a few years and movies and include Zombie’s Halloween II (2009), here. As much as I enjoyed Jamie Lloyd, it’s Harris’ Annie that solidified me as a fan of hers. Say what ye will about Zombie’s Halloweens, but he gave Annie a solid and even more tragic story. Harris created an Annie that was strong, sympathetic, and she really didn’t take any shit. When Halloween II came about, I secretly hoped that Annie would be the final girl as opposed to Scout Taylor Compton’s Laurie. Alas, she did not, but Harris’ performance as Annie is all around top ranking in the Halloween franchise performances.
Throughout the rest of the late aughts into the 2010s, Harris dominated the straight to video horror realm. There are the films in the “Danielle Harris is amongst a group of friends battling a nasty evil” subgenre: Left for Dead (2007), Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet (2008), The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond (2009), FearNet’s TV series, Fear Clinic (2009), Hallows’ Eve (2013), Camp Dread (2014), Ghost of Goodnight Lane (2014), and Redwood Massacre: Annihilation (2020). There are the films in the “Danielle Harris takes hold of woman power, and kicks ass” subgenre: The Victim (2011), Shiver (aka Skin Collector) (2012), Havenhurst (2016), and Inoperable (2017).
Then there’s the “Danielle Harris arrives in the sequel of horror franchises” subgenre. These include Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011) and See No Evil 2 (2014). The penultimate of these is when she took over the role of Marybeth in Adam Green’s Hatchet franchise. In Hatchet 2 (2010) and 3 (2013), Harri’s Marybeth came face to face with Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), and did it with such a force that alongside Hodder, she’s the face of the Hatchet films. It’s worth mentioning here that she also popped up in two episodes of Green’s TV series, Holliston (2012-2013). In season one’s 9th episode, Weekend of Horrors: Part One, she’s portrays herself at a horror con that the cast is attending. She returns in season two’s second episode, Halloween Girl, in which she – as herself – cons the cast who believes that she will be a part of their horror film.
“Say what ye will about Zombie’s Halloweens, but […] Harris created an Annie that was strong, sympathetic, and she really didn’t take any shit.”
Films that don’t fit into the Danielle Harris subgenres throughout this time include the wonderful post-apocalyptic vampire tale Stake Land (2010), Cyrus (2010), Tom Holland’s entry in the anthology series, Twisted Tales (2013), titled To Hell with You, voicework for the animated Night of the Living Dead: Darkest Dawn (2015), Camp Cold Brook (2018), and Between the Darkness (aka Come, Said the Night) (2019).
Harris’ directorial debut was the segment, Madison, in the anthology film, Prank, which also included segments directed by Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Ellie Cornell (Halloween IV, V). From what I can gather, the film was never completed, and hasn’t been released.
Her next directing gig was released, though! Among Friends (2012) brings a group of friends together for a whodunit mystery birthday party. The party takes a horrible turn when the host renders them paralyzed from the legs down at the dinner table, and brings about the horrible things they’ve done to each other. The film mostly takes place at said dinner table, and has enough ick moments (both physically and character wise) to keep you involved throughout the entire running time. Harris also makes a cameo of herself in a drug induced dream wearing the clown costume from Halloween V.
Phew. She works. She acts. She directs. She screams. She kicks ass. As if it would seem that she has any time, she’s constantly appeared at horror cons in the past. Throughout the quarantine times, she’s participated in many virtual panels. Recently, on February 13, she joined many cast members of the Hatchet franchise for a Live Q&A as a part of Wizard World’s virtual experiences. Fans can purchase virtual meet & greets, recorded messages, and autographs through February 20 at WizardWorld.com. She’s also released a horror themed calendar that comes autographed and hand-numbered by her, and can be purchased here.
Whilst I sit with high hopes that her *SPOILER WARNING* cameo at the end of Victor Crowley (2017) leads to more Marybeth versus Crowley mayhem in future Hatchet films, we have much more Danielle Harris for us in the future. She’ll be sitting in the director’s chair for the film, Sequel, which is being co-produced by Joe Dante (Gremlins). While speaking with Instinct Magazine, Harris had this to say on the project: “It’s about Final Girls who have survived mass murders in rural areas who are going to come together for [the ultimate battle]. The girls are written — it’s fire. Imagine if all of horror’s Final Girls got together and do a film? Imagine if Heather Langenkamp was in a movie with other Final Girls? [That’s what this is.]”
“She works. She acts. She directs. She screams. She kicks ass.”
Upcoming films for Harris include In from Outside in which “three couples find themselves at a fifties themed roadside diner, when one by one, each of the patrons begin to disappear under mysterious circumstances,” and The Host App, in which, “Sasha and Jason must figure out how to destroy the HOST app and force the demons back to hell.”
Danielle Harris has left and continues to leave a legacy in horror. There’s literally no stopping her, and why would we? She’s amazing within the genre. She’s so much more than “that girl from Halloween.” She can be kept up with on her Instagram, which sometimes features awesome behind the scenes moments from her past films, as well as on her Twitter.
So did I miss anything? Yes! Her performance in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991)! I know, not horror, but we all love that movie, right? What’s your favorite Danielle Harris performance? Let us know on our Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.