McGinnis: God save the (scream) queenWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A lot of things scare Danielle Harris. Not just the obvious stuff — the serial killers and monsters who stalk her onscreen and threaten to pull out her intestines and strangle her with them and so forth. No, many of her fears are of a decidedly more mundane variety.
“Really, at the end of the day, things as simple as fish actually scare me,” Harris said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “[Director] Joe Dante kind of messed me up — I secretly saw ‘Piranha’ when I was, like, 4, in my grandma’s living room, when no one knew I was watching it.”
It is her ability to make an audience identify with her fears that has transformed Harris into one of Hollywood’s most in-demand horror leads — though “scream queens” is the preferred term among fans, thank you. And that same talent makes her uniquely qualified to co-star in the E! network special “Hollywood Death Trip,” which premiered Oct. 24.
The show — a look at some of the most infamous murders and deaths in the history of Tinseltown — features Harris and “Hollywood’s Dearly Departed Tours” expert Scott Michaels discussing the passing of stars as varied as Johnny Lewis of “Sons of Anarchy” and Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten. It’s a subject that Harris said has always appealed to her.
“Real murders, I’ve always been fascinated by them. I’ve always been kind of obsessed with ‘Primetime’ and ‘20/20’ and ‘The First 48,’” she said. “Not the ‘CSI’ shows with actors on the shows, but the real stuff gets me.
“I’ve always sort of said that if I wasn’t an actor I’d want to be a homicide detective. So, as much as I’m completely freaked out by the reality of it, I’m always the first one sort of in. I’ll dive in headfirst and then have a freak out afterwards. Which is basically what happened on the show.”
Harris has become a very hot commodity in horror over the past six years, ever since her appearance in Rob Zombie’s remake of “Halloween.” The role reintroduced her to horror fans who had first seen her as the child lead in “Halloween 4” nearly 20 years before, and ever since, Harris’ dance card — decapitation card? — has been full of terrifying flicks like “Hatchet II,” “Fatal Call,” “Hallows’ Eve” and more.
“God, I can’t figure it out,” she said with a laugh. “I think, honestly, at the end of the day, it’s that I’ve always been incredibly accessible, and I think because I started doing these movies when I was really young, most of the fanbase is about my age. So now when I go to a convention, or a film festival, or get recognized — it’s mostly people in their 30s. And I think that that’s because they grew up with me.
“So maybe that’s — and this is just my opinion —maybe there’s some sort of protectiveness, or familiarity.”
Harris said whatever the reasons behind her fans’ loyalty, she remains grateful for the opportunities that her resurgence has given her, whether it be her appearance on the E! special or her recent directorial debut for the Aspect Film production “Among Friends.”
“Directing is really where I’m going right now, because I get to wear many hats, and I actually get to learn about things I didn’t know about,” she noted.
“I’ve been working for 30 years, so to finally get to do something where I have no idea how it’s done was a pretty cool learning experience — but I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if I wasn’t doing what I do in the movies. I’m using that to be able to branch out.”
No matter what new gigs result from her rebirth as a scream queen, though, Harris said working in the genre always will give her chances she may not have in more “mainstream” productions.
“I didn’t do them for 20 years — even though that’s what everybody remembers me from, there was a 20-year stint where I didn’t do any horror movies. But I think that because in the genre, I’m considered sort of, like, a movie star, but in the real world, sort of, not so much. So I get an opportunity to play the lead, play the heroine, play the final girl. During a movie, I’m first-billed. That would not necessarily happen if I were to do a $100 million budget movie.”
Harris said she’s looking forward to seeing her fans’ reaction to “Hollywood Death Trip” — a chance to get to know her in a new way.
“I’m very opinionated, and I’m not afraid to show it. So it’s an interesting combination. I’m excited for people to see the show, because it’s the first time that I think anyone’s going to have a chance to really see who I am as a person.”
Tags: 20/20, Danielle Harris, Fatal Call, Halloween, Hallows' Eve, Hatchet II, Hollywood Death Trip, monster, Piranha, Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten, Primetime, Rob Zombie, serial killers, Sons of Anarcy, The First 48, Tinseltown