Danielle Harris talks about her new film “Camp Dread”

She was little Jamie Lloyd in “Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers”; the angst-ridden Annie Bracket in Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”; and the blood-covered, butt-kicking Marybeth Dunston in “Hatchet II”. For over twenty-five years Danielle Harris has been a key figure – and fan favorite – of the horror genre. I recently talked with her about the newly released “Camp Dread” and the future of horror films.

B.C. Allen: How did you become a part of “Camp Dread”?
Danielle Harris: I’m very close friends with Felissa (Rose). Felissa called and said she is doing this movie and Eric Roberts was attached, and that my scenes would be with him, and then I was like “Oh my, god! Okay, great.”

BCA: So you and Felissa knew each other already, presumably from horror conventions?
DH: Yeah, there’s not a lot of like, you know, chicks, I would say – believe it or not – at these conventions that I would go to the bar and hang out and have a glass of wine with. We both have younger husbands in common, so we’ve definitely chatted about that. She’s a bit of a cougar like myself. She was all encouraging when I met my husband; so yeah, we’ve become good friends over the years. The industry, the genre, the community itself is so small that there’s a lot of B.S. that goes around about people pretending to make movies or wanting to make movies, and you don’t really know what’s real and what’s not real. And because of the tight-knit community, when your friend calls you and says “We’re doing this movie”, then you know that it’s the real deal. It’s always good to get one of those calls.

BCA: How was it working with Eric Roberts?
DH: You know, I didn’t get to work with him too much. As you saw, I only had a couple of scenes in the movie. But I have been a fan of his work for a long time. It was awesome.

BCA: In 2012 you directed your first feature-length film, “Among Friends.” Is directing and producing something you would prefer to do instead of acting? Or would you want to do all three at the same time?
DH: I don’t love producing – I just like having control over the final cut of the movie, essentially. You lose a little bit of power when you’re not a producer. But I would not put myself in a lead role in a movie that I directed; maybe a supporting role. That seems like a lot of hats, when you’re already wearing like fifty hats as a director. I do really enjoy directing. It’s nice to be able to hold onto a project for more than a couple of weeks.

BCA: You’re sort of a key figure in three film franchises: the original “Halloween” series, the Rob Zombie versions of “Halloween”, and the “Hatchet” series. Do you feel a sense of brand loyalty? For instance, if you were offered a role in a “Friday the 13th” reboot, or another “Nightmare on Elm Street” film would you do it? Or would you turn it down so you don’t upset your fans?
DH: It’s difficult, because it always depends on the director. If Joe Dante was doing “Gremlins” again and suddenly they wanted me to play the lead, I would do it in a heartbeat. It just depends on what it is. It gets tricky, you know, to do a reboot of “Nightmare”; I think people would get tired of seeing me in that stuff. It’s kind of good to come in on the second one like I did with “Hatchet” and like I did with “See No Evil 2”.

BCA: Has “See No Evil 2” finished production?
DH: Yea, we’re done. And we’re looking at an October release.

BCA: The majority of your fans were born in the eighties. Many more were born in the nineties. And most of them view you as the one-and-only “Scream Queen.” Would you agree with that perception?
DH: I think it’s actually the older fans that think of me like that, because you guys kind of grew up with me. There are so many actresses that are doing these movies, so I think that I may be their scream queen. They like to watch me kick ass; which is great. It works for me. I think I’ve been accessible and I think that’s been a really big part of it. I’ve been really active in the community, been really personable with the fans, and done a lot of conventions, and gotten to know people on different levels. I think that’s what made them like me more. Not to say that what I do on film is better than anybody else. I just maybe connected with them on a different level.

BCA: Can you think of any actress coming up now, who may be the next “Scream Queen”?
DH: There are very few actresses who do a lot of movies in the genre. Very few, like me, who do a lot of the same kinds of movies. With “See No Evil 2”, Katie Isabelle, I think is wonderful. She was amazing in “American Mary”. She is someone that I enjoyed getting a chance to work with. Because it was cool to watch her do her thing. Usually in these movies I am the only girl most of the time. When I am going through all the stuff I am going through, there are not a lot of girls around. It’s just usually me and some big monster. It was cool to watch her prepare for shooting in the same way that I do; making yourself hyperventilate, and running around in circles, forcing yourself to gag and be hysteric and screaming in the corner. All those things that I know I do, that I’ve never seen anyone else do before. And I got the chance to see her do it, which is kind of cool.

BCA: We see a lot of young actress do a film in this genre, early on, just to get work, but as you said very few stay within it? Why do you think that is?
DH: If you find your niche you want to stay with it. But I think a lot of representation wants to get you out of it. Once you are in it, you have to like it. If fans like you, you aren’t going anywhere.

BCA: Speaking of fans, there are several different social network accounts that are Danielle Harris related. For example there’s an Instagram account called @DanielleHarris_ScreamQueen, which is always posting pictures of you and promoting your films. What do you think of their efforts?
DH: I am amazed. The stuff that they put together is fantastic. I had to turn the alerts off on my phone because I was getting annoyed with seeing myself so much. It was all day long. Even I don’t love myself this much! It’s unbelievable that people take the time to do this stuff. I am flattered and I am fascinated by it at the same time. Logan, who works for me now, I met Logan because he started DanielleHarris.org, and he came to me at a convention a couple of years ago and said “My name is Logan, I put together this fan site for you.” I told him that I loved it… I had actually been on there a couple of times and told him he did a really good job. He asked if he could come out to L.A. to interview me and I said sure. He came to L.A. and he kept helping me do things when I did “Among Friends” and I would go to him and say “Hey, promote this.” or “Hey, I’ll give you first dibs on these pictures that nobody else has.” We sort of developed a relationship because of the effort I saw he put into caring about me and my career. I loved that. And now he is literally in my house every single day at nine o’clock in the morning. He works with my husband every day. I even asked him “Did you ever imagine after meeting me at wherever we met, Monstermania or – I don’t even know where the heck we were – that five years later you would literally be seeing me come upstairs in my pajamas and having coffee with me while I’m complaining about something?” And he said, “No, I didn’t.”

BCA: What is coming up for you in the future?
DH: I just optioned a script recently and I brought in a producing partner, and I’ve been producing this next one I’m doing, and assembling the team myself, which is a benefit of being the producer. And directing it as well.

BCA: Have you ever thought about writing or creating your own horror franchise?
DH: Not really franchise stuff, but I definitely have a bunch of ideas. I’m not looking to create the next killer. I think every new filmmaker wants to have the next Freddy, or the next Michael, or the next Jason and I think that that can get a bit old. I think it’s about trying to find ways to keep hip within the genre, because we don’t want to see the same stuff. I think I found that with the movie that I optioned, I didn’t write it, I just optioned it from a writer. We’re just in the middle of going through a little bit of changes and hopefully I’ll be up and running by fall.

“Camp Dread” is available on DVD now.


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DVD Review “Camp Dread”

Starring: Eric Roberts and Danielle Harris
Directed by: Harrison Smith
Not Rated
Studio: Image Entertainment
Running time: 1 hour 34 mins
Release date: April 15, 2014

Our Score: 1 out of 5 stars

The newly released “Camp Dread” is everything you think it is, yet nothing like you would hope. I have now viewed this movie twice. One reason for this is because I was trying to understand the premise. I understood the premise as a movie, but I couldn’t fully decipher what the characters within the story thought it was.

The second reason I watched this film twice was to double the on-screen time of Danielle Harris, turning her whopping four minutes and thirty seconds of screen-time into a full nine minutes. That’s correct, Danielle Harris, whose visage is on the cover art, is only in this movie for four minutes and thirty seconds. It is her character that bookends the story.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Julian Barrett (Roberts) was the director of the 1980’s “Summer Camp” series of horror films. However, as the series ended so did his career. In an attempt to raise funding for a reboot of his glorious franchise, Julian returns to the camp where he filmed his beloved series. Under the guise of filming a reality TV show with a group of angst-ridden twenty-somethings, his aim is to use this footage as a visual storyboard for his reboot.

The movie begins with a group of people seemingly auditioning for a reality TV series. But when the group arrives at the camp setting it is made known that they are somewhat court-ordered to be there for therapy. They HAVE to be there, yet they were auditioning? At the same time, Rachel Steele (Felissa Rose) arrives. She is the actress whom starred in the “Summer Camp” series; but since then she returned to school and became a therapist. Showing off her skills as a therapist, she proceeds to read private and intimate information of each one of the campers aloud to the entire group; sharing the personal tragedies and traumas that each character has encountered.

Barrett also explains to his campers that they are part of a game of survival, and they all have the opportunity to win $1 million. The story has now become ‘Survivor’ meets ‘The Hunger Games’ as the campers must attend therapy while avoiding a pretend killer whom will take them out of the game; while simultaneously preparing the camp for its re-opening, and still all being a part of the reality TV show whose footage will be used as a storyboard for the reboot of the “Summer Camp” film.

Did you follow all of that?

This is why I had to watch it twice. The story is so convoluted that it borders on making no sense whatsoever.

Besides using the ridiculous gimmick of placing cameras all over the grounds, each camper has a camera attached to their chest; the footage from which I don’t ever recall seeing. The characters are in their twenties, as is repeated in the movie several times, yet they are all portrayed as if they were teen-agers. The characters are one-note and cookie-cutter, they bring no depth or substance to the story at all. There is not one character that doesn’t fall into an obvious cliché’. The dialogue is stilted and obvious; the punch-line to any joke is easy to predict before the set-up is finished.

This movie is not scary, nor is it funny enough to be a satire or a dark comedy. To quote Julian Barrett, “That would be funny… if that were funny.” And for a movie with the tag-line: ‘Pitch Your Tent. Dig Your Grave.’ there should have been at least one tent in the movie: which there is not, since they all stay in cabins.

The only positives I have for “Camp Dread” is that it’s a good-looking cast. The men and women both aren’t bad to look at for an hour and twenty minutes. I also respect the use of practical gore effects over any computer-generated ones. The gore effects are decent enough, yet there are not enough of them for a movie of this genre. There also is a slight twist at the end of the movie, but by the time you get there it doesn’t matter. And when you fully analyze it you see how outlandish it really is.

For being the two main stars, Eric Roberts and Danielle Harris are both underutilized. Roberts could have done his scenes half-asleep and he would still be the best thing about this movie. Likewise, seeing Felissa Rose back in a “Summer Camp” setting is a nice touch of nostalgia; but all it really does is point out how good this movie is not. If you come upon this movie streaming on-line, it’s worth watching with a few friends, a bowl of popcorn and some rum; but there is no need to rush out and track a copy down. If you do watch it, though, watch it twice. That way it feels like it actually is a Danielle Harris movie. If I may suggest a better title: “Camp Dreadful!”