Indie horror icon and scream queen Danielle Harris on her new film “Inoperable”, Women in Horror, Hollywood’s beauty standards, and what’s next for her
Whether you loved her in the Halloween or Hatchet franchises, or even one of my favorite 90’s flicks Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitters Dead, genre favorite Danielle Harris has had a long career in Hollywood. The beautiful and ageless Scream Queen has a new movie out called Inoperable. It’s so great to see her back in action in this terrifically fun horror film.
Inoperable is the story of a young woman named Amy (Harris) who wakes up over and over in a seemingly abandoned hospital in the middle of a hurricane. Learning a little bit more each time she comes to, she figures out that she must escape before the storm passes or she will be trapped in the “hospital from hell” time loop forever.
The tangled storyline evolved and changed, depending on the choices she and the others that were trapped, made. It was thought-provoking, humorous and kept my interest. The horrible things going on in the hospital, lent themselves nicely to provide horror fans a lot of creative gore, done with great practical effects. I must admit, I’m always in for a lot of blood and guts, but I had to concentrate to follow the story too. With a great twist ending, Inoperable will delight horror fans!
I got a chance to chat with Danielle about Inoperable, Women in Horror Month, the #timesup/#metoo movements, and what movies we get to see her in next!
INTERVIEW WITH DANIELLE HARRIS, STAR OF INOPERABLE
Los Angeles Zombie Girl: Hi Danielle, I am so excited to talk to you. Your newest movie is Inoperable. I recently got a chance to see it, and it was so much fun! The term paradoxical time anomaly will stick in my head forever! How did you get involved in it?
Danielle Harris: I get sent scripts every so often for horror projects, and most of the scripts that come my way are kind of the same, you know. It’s hard to find little gems in the bunches, because they’re usually slasher movies. So, every once in a while, I’ll find something that I feel like I haven’t done before and want to tackle, and this was one of those. I was like, “Oh, this is kind of interesting, and this will make me use my brain. This is a psychological thriller. It’s a little challenging and, okay cool, it shoots in one location in Florida and, okay, I could do that.” And that’s kind of how it came about.
LAZG: What can you tell us about Inoperable?
DH: Inoperable is kind of like a genre version of Groundhog Day meets Twilight Zone. Amy is stuck in the hospital after a pile up on the highway, and she finds herself reliving the same day over and over. She has to figure out how to put the pieces of the puzzle together that will help her get out of the hospital she is trapped in. Ironically, there is a hurricane at the same time, and the eye of the storm is over the hospital. Along the way, Amy encounters some very interesting people, some friends, some foes, and it’s hard for her to distinguish between the two. We watch her put the pieces of the puzzle together as she’s trying to find her way out. The film also has a really amazing twist at the end.
LAZG: Was the script as confusing as the movie, or was it easy to follow?
DH: Actually, I think it was an easy read. I started getting more confused as we were working. We filmed in sequence, and I was still confused as to like, “I saw them, but now I don’t see them, and now I just saw them, but I don’t see them later…or they don’t see me later?” So, it definitely was mind-boggling at times. But because it’s all in my head, it’s anything kind of goes.
LAZG: Did you get lost when you were running around the set? It seemed like a huge labyrinth to work in.
DH: “I did get confused. There were arrows on the walls in certain areas, so we knew, “Okay, here’s how you get outside” essentially. This has happened on a couple of sets I’ve worked on. I filmed a movie called See No Evil 2 a few years ago, and we actually filmed inside a real insane asylum that was no longer in use since the 50s. But in that particular location, all the walls were painted the same color. They had it designed so you wouldn’t know how to get out if you were a mental patient. They did it on purpose to mess you up, and that was kind of how I felt in this situation. It’s like, I should know where I’m going, with the hundred times I’ve walked it on set. We’re filming in the same area, I don’t know how I didn’t know, how to get back to where I needed to go. So, I thank God for the arrows, that’s for sure.”
LAZG: You filmed in a real hospital, right?
DH: It was, but it was no longer in use. It had been out of commission for many many years and was about to be torn down. There was mold on the ceilings, asbestos, bats and bugs! The art department had to work hard to make it look good in certain areas. They did a fantastic job making it look like it was really in use, like in Amy’s room, they had to make it look better. But as far as like tearing it down and making it look like shit, that was all just the way it came.
LAZG: The camerawork was phenomenal. Was the camera guy running with you the whole time? It was very creative.
DH: Yeah, he was a he-man, I mean next-level, unbelievable. Thank God he’s in the shape that he’s in. He was using a rig called a Ronin, which is kind of like a steady cam, and it weighs 50 to 60 pounds, and he was running holding it in his hands. There’s no strap, it doesn’t sit on you, he’s literally just lifting it with his hands and holding it in front of him like you hold a steering wheel. It’s insane. He would do a dance with me! He would map out what we were going to do and how we were going to do it. I trusted him, and he trusted me, and we just went for it.
LAZG: Was there anyone in the cast that you especially had a great experience working with?
DH: I love Katie Keene, who kind of played my girlfriend (not that I really have friends in the movie). She’s great! She visited me for a few weeks after we got back to LA, and I still see her out and about. She’s just such a sweetheart, so I was protective of her — trying to take her under my wing a little bit.
There is a scene where she gets a bag over her head and is carried out. I needed to make sure, since we were moving so fast, that the guy who was carrying her out wasn’t gonna hurt her. He seemed very in character, and that’s always my worry with these guys that aren’t necessarily stunt men. They come in and they are just so in character. I’ve had it happen to me that they do the scene as if they are really doing it. Then you have to say, “Oh no, you’re just an actor, you’re not really going to be dragging her out by her head!” You have to remind them to ‘walk through this guys, we need a rehearsal, this is important, so no one gets hurt.’
New actresses are just excited to be there, and generally don’t feel like they have a voice 100% yet, so they have to refer to the old dogs like me that crack the whip a little bit. I try to make sure that everybody pays attention and takes the time to do what’s necessary. I find that happens on a lot of these movies, that bad things can happen. I try to watch things even if I’m not necessarily a part of a scene, just to make sure these girls speak up, and if not, I can speak up for them. No one is getting hurt on my watch!
LAZG: Do you have any crazy stories about working on the film?
DH: The scene where we are in the meat locker, basically hiding in a freezer, was pretty crazy. The effects people didn’t have what the director wanted to make it look like it was real human parts, and we were on a very small budget. So, they sent our poor makeup effects team to a local butcher, at like his house. The butcher had a big bucket with loose ends from cows that had been slaughtered. It had been sitting and baking in the sun from a few days back, he hadn’t disposed of it yet, so they decided that was the cheapest route to go.
They brought it to set, cleaned it off in the parking lot while we were filming, and we had to climb through basically just that. I’ve never in my life done something that gross. I was taking hand sanitizer and putting it up in my nostrils, and holding my breath, trying to get through. It was so disgusting, and I’m sure the biggest health code violation ever. I’ve never seen that happen before on a set. They were going for reality, and it was for sure. We were all coughing and wearing little paper masks over our faces throughout the movie, because not only the smells, there was asbestos and mold in the air. Everybody was getting sick. It was just a gnarly location.
LAZG: Ultimately for me, the movie was a sad story at the end. But was it meant to have comedy elements in it? I found myself laughing out loud sometimes because of the irony of the situations she was faced with.
DH: I found myself laughing out loud sometimes, too! I’m not a hundred percent sure there was supposed to be comedy in it. (laughs) There was definitely a feeling of, “Are you kidding me, when is she ever gonna get out of here, like really?” But you can see that I played it like that. I started to get friggin frustrated as the movie progressed. I was finding the humor in the absurdity of the situation, so that came across, but it could have been taken many different ways.
Every time I came back, I was more and more upset. But nobody would want to watch anymore if I did it the same each time. So, if the audience can laugh at the situation and feel like, “That poor girl, Oh, she’s a total nut bag, ok so now I get it,” then it works. I think the fans will want to go back to watch it again and try to put all the pieces together.
LAZG: February is Women in Horror Month, as I’m sure you know. How do you feel about that, and what would you say to women that are just starting out in this business?
Well it’s so interesting, because Women in Horror month? We are the stars, next to the killers, so it should be Women in Horror every month! If you look at the numbers the last couple of years, there are more women horror fans then there are men. So, the change we need is to have more female writers and directors to make these movies.
I don’t really know very many females that are diehard fans, that are like, “I want to make a horror movie.” Usually they don’t want to do a whole horror movie, they want to die in a horror movie. That’s what I hear from fans all the time. They don’t want to do all the stuff leading up to it, they just want the happy horror ending. Even though the other stuff is the stuff that’s really challenging.
Whoever said making a movie was glamorous never made a movie. As you know, being a makeup artist, when you’re on set and you’re working insane hours — so exhausted, sitting in makeup for hours — it’s boring sometimes. People think of it like Halloween, they get dressed up and do something fun for like a night, and it’s like, “No dude, it’s for a month!” A month of the same thing over and over again.
Horror movies are so hard to make and to do well. People don’t realize how hard it is, and there is work that comes with it. Everyone can kind of make movies nowadays, I think, with all these amazing cameras and even on your phone — with the easy ability to edit. So, my advice is, if you want to do it, go out and make it happen. Everyone’s got the tools nowadays. Let’s see what ya got!
LAZG: I’ve seen on social media your support of #timesup. How do you feel about that and the #metoo movements? You started in the movie business at a really young age. Did you ever have any problems?
DH: I’m very supportive. No one should be taken advantage of ever! I definitely had a few things happen on set, stuff where I felt like ‘that’s weird’ or something didn’t seem right, but I’ve never been persuaded by anyone or had casting couch situations myself. But I know it happens every day. That kind of behavior needs to stop.
I tweeted a couple of weeks ago that I had a situation in the past where I did not get a part that I really wanted because the network said I wasn’t fuckable enough looking. My job was to play a 15-year-old, so I’m not quite sure why Julia on Party of Five needed to be fuckable looking when she was 15, so that was confusing. And I definitely have lost out on stuff over the years because of my weight or the way that I look. I didn’t work for a few years, because they said I wasn’t the pretty girl. I was told I would never work for the CW or WB networks because I wasn’t their idea of pretty.
It’s not the same thing, but who are these people making those decisions? I did have a weird casting audition for a Steven Segal movie a few years ago that I’m pretty sure wasn’t actually a movie. I figured it out pretty quickly, and I had worked with him in the past. I think he knew that whatever was going on there wasn’t anything that was going to fly with me. So, I left, but I’m very sure it wasn’t legit. I’ve had producers come on set, where I had to do a love scene, that hadn’t shown up prior to doing the love scene, and you gotta say, “Now you show up? That’s not gonna work for me. I mean, it’s a closed set buddy.” It happens across the board for sure.
LAZG: Do you see yourself being in any more of the Halloween or Hatchet films?
DH: For Halloween, I’m gonna say I’m pretty much dead. Ha ha. I don’t think there will be anymore after this new one, so they say. I would have loved to come back and done one with Jamie Lee, where I played Jamie Lloyd again. It would have been amazing to go out one last time with her, but I don’t see that happening. And with the Hatchet series, absolutely, if there is an opportunity I will be there!
LAZG: What can you tell me about your upcoming projects?
DH: I’ve done two other movies recently. One is called Camp Cold Brook. It’s a Joe Dante Movie that Andy Palmer (Funhouse Massacre) directed. Chad Michael Murray and I star in it. It was super fun, a total throwback to old school horror, that whole 80s/90s feel. Gremlins is one of my favorite movies, so I’ve been wanting to work with Joe for so many years. So, when Camp Cold Brook came across my desk I said, “Oh my God, yes, I don’t have to read it, I’ll just do it!”
It’s a really fun story about a group of ghost hunter producers who have a show that is failing. They go to one last location, one last shot to try to keep them on the air and when they get there all this crazy shit starts happening. It’s funny, creepy and weird, and I have a really interesting character that has a lot of humor, which I really like.
I also just did a movie called Come, Said the Night with Lew Temple, where I play his love interest. It is a much more intense, heavy genre film for sure. A sort of coming of age horror movie. The complete opposite of the other films.
Inoperable will be out on DVD, VOD and Digital HD on February 6th. Camp Cold Brook and Come, Said the Night are still in post-production, but should be out in 2018! Also, be sure to catch Danielle on Adam Green’s Scary Sleepover (Episode 5) on YouTube!