The Princess Of Halloween Talks Scary Movies, Michael Myers, Being A Millennial Legend, & So Much More
With spooky season upon us, most are at home watching their favorite horror classics or enjoying new recommendations. Even mediocre horror fans will tell you one iconic films everyone has probably watched or seen is John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher, Halloween. The original starring, Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis has inspired genre creators for decades. The franchise also spawned a handful of rather complicated timelines. Perhaps the most cherished one spans for the original five films, before it’s first reboot of Halloween: H20. Three of the original five films follows a young protagonist, Jamie Lloyd, who is Curtis’ on-screen daughter – now being hunted by her uncle, Michael Myers. Jamie was majestically portrayed by then ten-year-old blossoming actress, Danielle Harris. Harris would eventually go on to be a part of every current Millennial’s childhoods with movies like Wish Upon A Star, animated series like The Wild Thornberrys, and television series like Boy Meets World. She’s certainly been in at least one episode of a beloved television series or film you’ve likely seen, but to any horror genre fan: She’s not just another Scream Queen, she’s the Princess of Halloween, despite being constantly overlooked by casual audiences.
Harris recently sat with Instinct to give us a look into her current life and a rewind of her outstanding accomplishments. After eventually succumbing to Michael Myers’ recklessness, she’s swooped through the horror genre in an endless amount of films, including the Rob Zombie reboot of Halloween, has been a Final Girl and ill-fated victim repeatedly, and continues to embrace her scary movie roots. Let’s dive in!
Mickey Keating: This is an absolute honor, so thank you. I’ve been a fan since I was six-years-old watching you in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers on laser disc in my uncle’s basement. I’m a part of a handful of horror groups on Facebook and any time a film will come up that you’re in, someone always comments, ‘I’ll watch anything with Danielle.’ You seriously have a wide devoted fan base.
Danielle Harris: That’s what I love about my fans! I’ll make a movie and then watch it and have many different thoughts. It’s like ‘This is kind of a shit show, or this didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.’ But, to my fan base, it won’t matter to them. They’ll still support me and see it and tell me how much they love it. And I’ll be like [curiously] ‘Yeah, it was great!’. Sometimes when [horror films] are really bad and campy, they become these underground, cult favorites. You never know.
MK: I was reading in your recent Comicbook interview and it reminded me how much the horror genre has changed. What was once considered a more or less stupid film to passively watch with your girlfriends on a Friday night is now being nominated for Academy Awards and the genre is being taken more seriously. As someone who has evolved with the genre, what do you think about scary movies finally getting their seat at the table? Did you ever think scary movies could get recognized by the Academy?
DH: I mean… I still kind of like to keep it old school. I just heard this great interview with Adam Sandler on Howard Stern, who I just love. It’s such a business to be involved in the Academy and to win the award. I didn’t know you had to do all of this work you have to do. You have to ask people to vote for you, campaign for yourself and your movie. To me, that sounds like this weird, egotistical like, need to have some sort of trophy to show how good you are. I wasn’t ever a fan of the need to show your need to have accolades. I’ve always loved the bubble [my career] lives in. I’m excited [the horror genre is] finally getting recognized for how hard it is to make scary movies. Give me some comedic actress that makes twenty million a movie that steps in my shoes for sixteen days on a low budget, independent horror movie–
MK: -You’re not going to see Melissa McCarthy doing any of that!
DH: Exactly! It’s hard! [On my latest film], Redwood Massacre: Annihilation, I had to do my own choreography and learned fight [scenes], but it was so much fun to get fight training. I want to do that stuff. Nowadays that we film digital, we have a rubber band and a toothpick to make it happen. We’re popping a squat on set. We’re filming in gnarly places. In Redwood, I filmed in an underground bunker in Scotland. It was terrifying and freezing. There was no heat and I’m doing fight scenes, cold [and miserable]. But, you pull it together and make it happen. We do fifteen pages a day and it’s crazy. When I was in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood we filmed two pages in three weeks. There’s no more middle class anymore. I blame Paranormal Activity for that! After that everyone thought they could make a movie for [no money]–
MK: And pay people for nothing!
DH: [On my beat] Exactly. There’s no middle class. Everyone’s doing a movie for a hundred thousand dollars or a movie they think will get recognized by the Academy. I was recently watching Child’s Play with my buddy Tom Holland and I think that movie was made for thirteen million dollars back in the ‘80s. It’s crazy.
MK: I have to revert a little back to Instinct’s gay audience who will definitely recognize you from Wish Upon A Star. And after browsing your Instagram I see that you were just hanging out with Even Stevens star, Christy Carlson Romano. We’re you always involved with Disney or was it Wish that connected you?
DH: Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead is what kind of got younger kids into me. Then it was Wish Upon A Star – then it was maybe Boy Meets World. I did a few sitcoms that crossed over a little bit. But, Wish aired on Disney Channel for ten years. I watched Wish Upon A Star [yesterday]! It was so nice to re-watch it. I forgot how good it was. You can’t fake connections. I loved Katherine Heigl and we had a great relationship. I was talking to Dwight H. Little, the director of Halloween 4 [the other day]. He was saying when he reads scripts now as a director, [he wants] to read the [relationship I had with my on-screen, adopted-sister in Halloween 4, Ellie Cornell]. I think Wish had that same, special connection.
MK: You’re segueing into my other question! Of course, audiences love your relationship with Cornell’s Rachel in the Halloween series. However, years ago I wrote an article that I believed Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers was brilliant because it kills off Final Girl, Cornell, in the first act and instead focuses on her rebellious best friend, Tina Williams (Wendy Kaplan), as your caretaker. Halloween fans across the board flame and hate her, but I thought she was great. Looking back, what was your take on the drastic change?
DH: I thought [Kaplan] was great. I loved her, too. I think I was closer in real life with [Kaplan] than I was [Cornell]. Fans didn’t like [Kaplan] because they loved [Cornell] so much they thought she was being replaced. I don’t know why they couldn’t come back and have Rachel and I together. The Halloween franchise fucks things up. They keep changing things that are working.
MK: I don’t mind the many different timelines. But, I’m still actively mad the original creators have ignored you entirely. Love that Zombie brought you back and even kept you alive in the first reboot of his series. You’re a character from the original franchise, who had her own films, so it was incredibly exciting and a nod to the fan base. My best girlfriend and I geeked out that you survived!
DH: I didn’t even know [my character of original 1978 bad-girl Annie Brackett] was going to stay alive! I got the job and then the script after, so I never knew Annie was going to live. I think that was always in the script, I don’t think my casting changed it, but maybe I should ask [Zombie]. The almost-death of Annie in Zombie’s film was supposed to be how the character Mya Rockwell (Brea Grant) sees [her demise] in Zombie’s Halloween II sequel. She gets stabbed on the dining room table and that’s how I was supposed to almost die in the first one. I remember reading the script and screamed when I read it. I couldn’t believe Annie was going to live!
MK: I loved Zombie’s take on Halloween. The first one was great, the second isn’t bad at all. But, honestly I don’t think anyone appreciated the inclusion of Sheri Moon Zombie and the white horse in his sequel. I was shocked at how much it was negatively received, because of your performance as a damaged Annie, but Scout Taylor-Compton had such a great spin on her version of Curtis’ iconic character, Laurie Strode. I was so outraged that she hasn’t usurped the role of a modern Scream Queen because she’s really fantastic.
DH: Yeah! I think so, too. I thought that I was going to pass the torch to her as the next Halloween girl [or Scream Queen]. She works all the time, but I think she does more underground, Indie films. I know she’s off [filming] something now.
MK: Okay so you’re close with Zombie, you talk to Scout – have you ever had any interaction with Jamie Lee Curtis? She never brings you up or references your sequels when she talks about the franchise so I feel like it’s constantly that Mariah Carey moment when she claims she doesn’t know who Jennifer Lopez is. As a fan, it’s uncomfortable for her to not acknowledge you. I don’t get it. Friggin’ Kyle Richards got invited back!
DH: I don’t think I’ve ever met her. I’m not quite sure [why Curtis is mute on the sequels]. I’ve even talked to producers after and asked if I pissed someone off. I think studios sometimes don’t know what to do. They maybe almost don’t get horror in some weird way. Can you imagine if I came back and reunited with Curtis in some way [in a sequel]? [Fans would go crazy] But, here’s what it is. The business has become about how big your social media following is. They think that will make people go to the theater. I only have a hundred thousand and Kyle Richards has millions because of her reality show. But, people who watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills aren’t going to go see [a horror film].
MK: They even tried to seemingly revive Kyle’s character of Lindsay Wallace in your first Halloween movie. She was the unnamed friend of Cornell’s who was driving you both to get your Halloween costume…but also wasn’t even Kyle herself. It wasn’t even a nod to the fan base of who it was!
DH: I didn’t even get that until years ago! I was like wait that’s supposed to be Lindsay Wallace, like THE Lindsay from the original film? I had no idea.
MK: Another horror film I love that you did was See No Evil 2 with the Soska Sisters. They are very female-forward, huge equality activists. I was so upset over your really shocking death in that movie. You were the Final Girl!
DH: I wasn’t supposed to die in that! They switched it when I got cast [because I typically survive in films]. The whole script got changed and everyone became older when I entered. The sequel was originally supposed to be teenagers in a school, I think. I approached them because I wanted to work with them.
MK: Let’s move on towards The Hatchet franchise. Should we anticipate a fifth sequel? They left it open and you came in at the end of the fourth sequel saying you’re ready to battle again!
DH: If they make more I will be back for sure. I know director Adam Green has a story in mind, but it’s like every movie they give him less and less money. And now it’s like, is anyone ever going to work again [because of the pandemic]? And if we do, how is that going to happen? I love my character of Mary Beth Dunston. [Green] and Kane Hodder are my friends, I love them.
MK: You voiced the character of Prima donna Debbie Thornberry in Nickelodeon’s The Wild Thornberrys – again, you were such a part of every Millennial’s childhoods even if they don’t know it. Can you tell me anything about working for that production?
DH: It was great! It was one of my favorite jobs ever. I wasn’t doing any comedy and I got to be a lunatic in the room. The more ridiculous I was, the better it was. And I did it in my pajamas for seven years! I didn’t film with that many people because it’s easier to go in and do it by yourself. I did work with Tim Curry the most out of anyone. I only worked with Lacey Chabert a few times, but I still do events with her and film festivals. We’re friends. I have her on my list for my new YouTube series, CommenTERROR, but she’s filming in Canada right now.
MK: Let’s talk about CommenTERROR! So this is literally you at your house watching a horror movie with one of your friends who happens to star in it? This is so simple, but dazzling and I know people are going to be tuning in.
DH: The idea came to me during quarantine. I’m trying to find things to do aside from talking to my mom, kids, and husband. I was like I need to talk to someone else! I was watching a bunch of movies I haven’t seen before and I was like…my friends are in these! I know so many people in the horror genre. Previously, I did this show on Geek Nation called Girl on Girl where I’d interview females in the horror genre, but I didn’t know them [that well]. Can you imagine writing an article about me, but you haven’t seen any of my movies?
MK: Trust me, I’ve been there. And it happens so much better when it can happen organically.
DH: Right? I thought, God I have so many friends in the horror genre. As an actress, I was so tired of getting asked the same questions over and over again. You really want to know what I thought about working with Rob Zombie? Haven’t you read that somewhere before? I bought a bunch of cameras and I had some lights and sound stuff from doing voice over work at home. I have this room [she’s currently in] with memorabilia and I’m like-
MK: Wait, yes – I can see it. Who put everything up behind you? It looks great! Was that you?!
DH: My lovely husband.
MK: You found a man in California who knows how to drill?
DH: Listen, I only dated actors before I married a non-actor and I wouldn’t do it again because [actors] don’t know how to hang a fucking curtain rod. My man was in finance and [drives] fancy cars and wears suits. But, right now he’s outside tuning a truck and picking up trailers. He can pick up things, wire things, he’s a total dude. He did all of this. [Showcases room] He wanted to kill me when I was like ‘I saw this idea on Pinterest…’
Circling back to CommenTERROR after fanning out over her fabulous horror themed room:
DH: Okay, so I thought I would love to do some commentary that used to be on DVDs because no one buys those anymore. All of the panels that we used to do at conventions are currently gone [because of the Coronavirus]. I had an idea of inviting my friends over and was like how about we just talk about this and film it? As I watch it, I see it as a filmmaker, an actor, and I see my friend. It’s cool to watch them watch themselves. Because I have really long, intimate relationships with these people it’s cool to talk about work with them while we film, because we rarely talk about work [when we hang out]. [We’re real people]. After they leave, a few of my friends have called and emailed saying ‘Wait that may look bad maybe take that out because that’s how we talk about in real life’. It’s been intense, but cool. I don’t know exactly what I’m doing with them yet. I’m slowly learning how to put them up on YouTube, but [the pandemic] is a learning curve for me to try something new. I put it together and then [the outcome wasn’t] nice and the sound wasn’t great. I got amazing interviews and it looks amazing, then I step it up even more with quality [but things happen in post-production]. It was most interesting to watch Cujo with Dee Wallace, because I’m watching the relationship with herself and her son. I’m [a mom of two boys] so it was hard for me to watch it! She was so vulnerable and real during our viewing. She was watching her performance, but also she was acting alongside her [now deceased husband] Christopher Stone and it was [emotional for us both]. I’ve always been a fan of her since she was in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and I’ve known her from the convention circuit. She’s really proud of that performance, of course. I’ve had Kane Hodder on [my show] and we watched his first Jason Voorhees’ film, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (which is considered FriGay the 13th for it’s gay cast members). I had Sleepaway Camp’s breakout star, Felissa Rose on. I had never seen her movie before. And I was like, ‘Now I know why you’re so famous!’. There were so many gay undertones [in Sleepaway Camp]! All of the chicks are butch, the guys are super femme. The actors brought their own clothes. I was like ‘What’s the director trying to say?’ Was no one talking about what was going on? I was five-years-old when that movie came out, so that was super cool to talk to her about. Oh! You’re going to love this [gossip]. I recently did a CommenTERROR on Hocus Pocus with Omri Katz, he was my first boyfriend. I hadn’t seen him in twenty years – and he doesn’t do media anymore. I’m calling everyone in my phone asking if they want to come over and do this. I’m paying for them to come get a COVID-19 test and once they are negative, I’m like come on over!
MK: Please tell me you are eventually going to talk about Urban Legend with Tara Reid at some point?
DH: Well, she didn’t show up yesterday! I swear. I was ready for Tara [and discussing Urban Legend]. I was texting with her and I left voice messages. She was flying in from Florida and I guess she… got busy, I don’t know. I was bummed out [that she didn’t contact me about being on CommenTERROR]. [We used to be roommates.] I took her to her The Big Lebowski audition (which she landed). I have love for her, I grew up with her. She was dating a friend of mine when she first moved to Los Angeles from New York. Maybe if I make more episodes, she’ll come and do it. I’m trying to organize a bunch of surprises for fans, hopefully she joins. I have real relationships with these people [especially Tara] and what we’d talk about would be different than what she’d give anyone else.
MK: Are you planning on introducing your sons to horror?
DH: So, my oldest son and my nephew – I had them watch one scene of my first movie, Halloween 4, the other day. I knew maybe they’d never seen a scary movie. I had to turn off E.T. [before] for them. So, I put on only my scenes for them, maybe thinking they’ll know it’s me, and they can understand more a little bit [that horror movies aren’t real]. My son loved it and wanted to watch it again. My nephew [was terrified]. But, my husband has dressed up as Michael Myers, so my son thought it was his dad! But, now my son is afraid of the dark and thinks there’s a monster under his bed so maybe it was too soon.
MK: What’s in the future for you?
DH: I’ve directed a film in the past, but now I’m directing a horror film that is the ultimate Final Girl horror film. 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.]
Speaking with Harris is so nostalgic that you feel like you’re chatting with the most popular girl from your grade school who always said hello to you, even if you weren’t necessarily friends in the lunchroom. There isn’t a phony bone in her. Her warm demeanor is almost polar opposite of the badass she gets to act every time we see her on screen. She’ll be working for years to come and, as stated previously, genre superfans will continue to cheer her on every step of the way.
Don’t forget to check out Harris’ YouTube series, CommenTERROR, and her latest film, Redwood Massacre: Annihilation, which is currently streaming on YouTube. Harris admittedly isn’t asking anyone for any monterary amount during this time, but does have a Patreon account for anyone willing to contribute to supporting CommenTERROR moving ahead.
Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.