Interview: Scream Queen Danielle Harris Goes Mental in Inoperable

Danielle Harris has established her presence in the horror genre with many beloved roles over the span of her career. Whether being stalked by Michael Myers in the original “Halloween” series, or returning under the direction of Rob Zombie, Harris has earned respect and notoriety as a scream queen in a genre filled with stalkers, slashers and splatter.

Best known for “Halloween,” “Hatchet” and “Stake Land” her career goes back to earlier TV roles in “Spenser For Hire,” “One Life to Live,” “Roseanne” and “The Commish” with non-horror roles in “Daylight” and “The Last Boy Scout.” Fans also watched her in “Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2” and “See No Evil 2,” even playing a self-parody role in two episodes of “Holliston.”

In “Inoperable,” directed by Christopher Lawrence Chapman, she takes a break from the gory slaughter trading sharp blades for psychological storylines and alternate timelines. Adding more hospital time to her resume she runs down endless hallways searching for answers, chased by orderlies and staff with deadly intentions.

Harris plays Amy Barrett, who wakes from a car wreck to realize she’s caught in a repeating timeline and must find a way out before the storm outside ends. In “Groundhog Day” video game fashion, she repeats sequences, given a certain amount of time before returning to the scene of the accident.

The movie is more psychological in its delivery and tone, giving off claustrophobic vibes and an encapsulating feeling of being adrift in recycling time. The cast keeps things interesting as she meets other inpatient guests, including Katie Keene (“ClownTown”), getting farther before the cycle runs out as we feel her frustration, pain and determination.

If you’ve ever wanted to see a movie with Harris, in every scene, “Inoperable” is a wish granted. Timelines bend and merge as spirits of patients and shadows roam rooms and corridors as grim experiments and surgeries go wrong with a terrifying lack of anesthesia.

Harris talked to The LA Beat about her interest in the role, “I haven’t done a film like this, I think pretty much ever. Most of the films I do are slasher films. There’s one bad guy running around chasing you, so this is a really nice opportunity to do something more [like a] psychological thriller. A little more in your head giving you more room as an actor to play.”

Harris carries the movie, “It may be the first movie that I’m in every single scene. I’ve done movies that have come close. I don’t think I had one 30-minute break, at all.  Even if it was on somebody else, I was in the background.”

They shot in an abandoned hospital, “It was gonna be taken and torn down, I believe, after we filmed. [It was] full of asbestos, bats and all kinds of other lovely, lovely things.”

The film gets creatively claustrophobic, “Every single thing was filmed on one floor of that building. We used the same hallways, over and over and over again so it was super creative on our DP’s part to make it look different. If you’re shooting in one location it can be pretty monotonous and boring. I think he did a really good job of finding ways to utilize the space.”

Filming was done somewhere in Tampa, “Our director’s from Florida and a lot of financing came from there. For me, that was one of the reasons I wanted to do the movie. There’s also some really good film incentives.”

For some of the gore effects, real animal entrails were used, “That was the first time in my career that I’ve encountered anything like that. They wanted it to look as authentic as possible with a small budget.”

In the spirit of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” seasoned meat was used, “It wasn’t fresh and refrigerated, where you couldn’t smell it. It had been sitting out in a bucket on someone’s property outside in the Florida heat. It was so disgusting, so nasty!”

The shoot lasted three-and-a-half weeks with 12-15 hour days. Due to the secluded location, local fan interest wasn’t a factor, “I think some producers are really great about keeping things under wraps. The location was pretty far out. We didn’t have many guests popping by to see what’s going on.”

Whether slasher or psychological Harris embraces each role she takes, “It depends on that particular project. If a new slasher movie comes up that I think would be cool and fun, I would do it. I just like working in this genre and having really good stories, character arch’s and freedom. There’s a lot of respect I think I’ve gained over the years in this world which I don’t necessarily find outside the genre. I get a lot more freedom to play and that’s why I’m an actor. I’m definitely gonna keep moving forward.”

Harris says “Halloween 5” was an interesting movie, and she’s glad she didn’t return for part 6, “I don’t even know where we could’ve gone. There were a lot of issues around the guy with the silver tipped boots. There were a lot of things that didn’t make sense. I think that movie is great as a stand-alone but following [part] 4 it fits in kinda odd. You cut to [part] 6 and she’s pregnant with Michael Myers baby. That was so weird to me. I don’t know what I would have done but I definitely know I didn’t want to be part of that storyline.”

She still gets scared watching horror movies as her earlier experiences didn’t desensitize her, “I still get scared like everyone else, watching scary movies late at night. I definitely feel everything just as much as everyone else, that’s for sure.”

Harris recommends some non-horror roles that her casual fan base might not know about, “It depends on the person, there’s “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitters Dead,” that’s always a good classic for girls, I’d say. For guys, maybe “The Last Boy Scout.” I really like a movie I did called “Shiver.” That was one of the hardest roles I’ve ever done. One of my favorite genre movies I’ve done is “Stake Land.” We won the audience award at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) a few years ago. Anyone that sees that movie says, wow I loved it.”

“Among Friends” is one of Harris’s directing credits done on a tiny budget, shot in nine days and was a great learning experience.

She’s still a favorite at conventions, “I’m always touched by people that continue to come back and see me over the years.” Harris appreciates when fans go the extra mile bringing her special things, besides fan memorabilia. One fan gave her a blanket they personally crocheted. “That stuff warms my heart.”

She’s had her moments of fandom as well, meeting Kelly LeBrock and Anthony Michael Hall, “I was super stoked.” She geeked out working with “Gremlins” Zack Galligan, “He’s one of my all-time favorites. I was really excited working with him. I didn’t tell him till one of the last days of filming “Hatchet” that I was an uber fan of “Gremlins.” That was the first horror movie I’d ever seen.”

Harris has more upcoming attractions, “I just did an awesome movie called “Camp Cold Brook” by Andy Palmer of “Funhouse Massacre.” “I love working with him, this movie is really fun and really funny. We filmed in Oklahoma City.  The characters have such a great sense of humor. It’s not like anything I’ve done before. I’m really excited and can’t wait to see it.”

She never tires of talking “Halloween,” “People keep asking me about it. I’m so grateful for that movie and I wouldn’t have the career I have without that movie. It was 30 years ago which is insane to me. I didn’t have any idea we’d still be talking about this 30 years later. How lucky am I? It’s pretty amazing. “Halloween” set the mark for franchise slasher movies.  It started it, so of course we’ll be talking about it and I’m happy to. It will continue I’m sure.”

Harris wants to work with Quenton Tarantino and would love the challenge of a role in the upcoming Charles Manson movie. “I keep saying one day I’ll work with Tarantino.  He’s so amazing. It’d be a dream come true.”

“Inoperable” mirrors elements of “Edge of Tomorrow,” with certain scenes reminiscent of the original “Halloween II” and a nice vehicle for Harris.

“Inoperable” opened nationally December 1 and is currently on a limited U.S. theatrical U.S. run, hitting DVD in February. “I hope fans enjoy it.”

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