Oct. 10, 2012 - Issue #886: Typhoon Judy
Danielle Harris's Among Friends finds a genre figure shifting her focus. Known best as Scream Queen of slasher flicks, her horror roots run deep—as a child, she starred in Halloween 4 and 5 (she later starred in Rob Zombie's reboot of the series), and plenty more followed. She's also done her share of voice acting work in broader genres, but it's horror where she's found the greatest impact: google her name and you'll find lists with titles like "Top 6 Danielle Harris Horror Roles."
Among Friends, then, continues her work within the genre, but marks her first trip to the other side of the camera lens as a director. Ostensibly about a dinner party gone wrong when someone takes the murder mystery theme a wee bit too literally, it looks to capture an abandoned, campier, '80s style of horror, the likes of which Harris started out working in.
"I think that everything was the same for a while," she says over the phone from Los Angeles. "I mean, I'm 35. I'm not 18 and the movies that I see nowadays, at least the fun ones, are not really geared towards my age group. And what I know are movies growing up in the '80s. That's really where my career started, so sort of write what you know. I only got back into the genre a few years ago, so what I know is based on how it started."
Harris had been looking for a project to step behind the camera for when she got a call from pal Jennifer Blanc, whom she'd worked with on Blanc's The Victim, about a script with "strong, fun, female-based" ensembled that piqued her interest. Though she had some reservations about directing.
"I just didn't know 100 percent if it was what I wanted to do, if I wanted to direct, even though in my gut I felt like it was what I wanted to do," she says. "So I wanted to find the right thing and I think I finally had the confidence to tackle something. I saw all these different ways that it could go."
Among Friends resonated with her, though Harris had some hesitations about the script's then-state.
"It was a really basic psychological slasher, nothing out of the ordinary that I hadn't read a million times before, she explains. "We sat down and rewrote from page one. And it was like, what do you really wanna do? And the first thing for me was I just wanna have fun. I have no desire to make a movie that everybody else is making. I want to try something a little bit different."
Writer Alyssa Lobit was receptive to an open creative process (Lobit also stars), and Among Friends' final shape coalesed into the pastiche of slasher-camp and comic, old-school horror that it is now. Harris, Blanc and Lobit will all be in attendance at Dedfest's screening of the film.
"[Alyssa] trusted me to guide her in certain directions that I knew would work, that we needed to have all the elements to make a good script, and still make it oddball enough to where everything was just a little bit kitchy," she says. "I like to say it's kind of tacky."
Harris notes her own roots in the genre gave her some leniency to take risks with the material.
"I have an awesome fan following anyway, and I've already created a bit of a mark in the genre, that I feel like I can get away with things maybe other first-time directors wouldn't try to take a chance to do. It just gave me a little bit more freedom."
Wed, Oct 17 (7 pm)
Directed by Danielle Harris
Metro Cinema at the Garneau
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