Well, the headline says it all, so let’s get right into this trio of films that give Danielle Harris top billing…
THE VICTIM (2011)
Now I know why Michael Biehn of Terminator made a brief cameo as himself in Among Friends, the film Danielle directed: she appears in The Victim, which he directs! But Danielle isn’t the lead. She’s the one and only victim in the film. The leading lady is one of the blonde chicks from Among Friends! What an awesomely incestuous group of horror filmmakers!
The Victim is not really a horror movie. It’s also not a grindhouse film, which I believe was Biehn’s intent. And it’s not even much of a rape/revenge film. It’s just not edgy, stylized, or over-the-top enough to fit any of those categories.
Danielle is seen mostly in flashbacks showing what led to her death. She and her girlfriend were partying with two cops in the woods and Danielle got screwed to death…literally. So the blonde runs away and stumbles upon ex-criminal Michael Biehn living alone in small cabin and asks him for help.
Most of the movie is the blonde relating to Biehn what happened in the flashback scenes, the two of them having sex (Michael Biehn’s body is BANGING), and the two cops coming around looking for the blonde and telling Michael she’s a wanted woman. So who’s telling the truth? Can Biehn trust the blonde? Can she trust him?
The surprising thing is, with all these seeds planted about trust issues, there’s NO twist here. The story is exactly how it’s painted. I guess that could be considered the twist these days! There are all these promises of shifting loyalties, but it never happens. Biehn and the blonde just face off against the two cops (one of whom is SO fricking hot).
There’s violence, but it’s pretty tame. And there’s a hint at the end that there may be more to one character’s story. But we’re left hanging.
CYRUS: MIND OF A SERIAL KILLER (2010)
If you want violence, gore, and torture, look no further than Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer. Amazingly, Cyrus the serial killer is played with unflinching brutality by Brian Krause, our sweet Leo from Charmed!
Here’s another one that isn’t exactly a starring role for Danielle. She’s reporting about a serial killer and the disappearance of women for a show called LAST STEPS. She interviews an eccentric older man, played by Lance Henriksen (shocker) and he says he knows the killer is some dude named Cyrus and that he can tell Cyrus’s whole story of murder and mayhem. And so he does.
Seriously, Cyrus is a brutal torture film. We see a bit of Cyrus’s childhood, and then we see Cyrus’s marriage to his wife, which ends really bad. Cyrus loses it completely and starts capturing bitches and doing nasty stuff to them. Oh. And he also starts a business selling amazing “hamburger meat” to a local diner. I know. This is usually the plotline of a dark comedy horror, but not this time. Cyrus puts people in cages. He guts them alive. He skins them alive.
There are familiar faces, including the woman from Bones who played the psychic lady in Jeepers Creepers. There’s fricking Rae Dawn Chong in some interview footage. And Tiffany Shepis appears in the film, but you won’t even recognize her. She’s awesome in this dark and gruesome film. She also happened to appear in Hallows’ Eve with Danielle!
Danielle finally steps into the scream queen shoes at the end of the film for the big twist….
Shiver has one thing going for it; Danielle’s scream queen performance is pretty good despite how CSI the rest of the movie feels. As disturbing as the subject matter is, as shocking as the content is in theory, the final product falls rather flat. It’s sort of like a copycat serial killer movie, dipping into many of the conventions of horror films and serial killer profile films and TV shows.
The killer is a rather harmless looking older dude. He kills two chicks (that we get to see) then kidnaps Danielle…repeatedly. No joke. The movie is basically him abducting her, her getting away, talking to the police (Casper Van Dien and Rae Dawn Chong (again!) are on the case), and then starting the whole process over! By the third time, your sort of like, “Just lock DANIELLE away so the fucker can’t get her!”
The killer is known to kill women and then have sex with the bodies. He keeps heads in jars. He tries to rape Danielle. He beats Danielle. He shows her videos of him killing the other girls and them begging for their lives. He kills a couple of men. There are several scenes with him chasing after Danielle. It all sounds like the makings of a pretty sick horror flick.
Unfortunately, I felt the shifts from the “horror” to the police investigation to be jarring. The contrasting POVs may have been the intended technique, but for a horror fan like me, it drastically spoiled any sense of tension or suspense. Plus, there are bizarre moments that don’t serve much purpose, like Danielle having an argument with her mother on the phone or Casper Van Dien telling Danielle a story right near the end of the film about the fate of his brother when he was young.
After a lackluster final shoot out confrontation scene (probably better reserved for one of those primetime network detective TV shows), the faux scare dream sequence that closes the film is the best part! Sure, it’s totally not in keeping with the tone of the rest of the film, but I can fully appreciate Danielle having an I Know What You Did Last Summer final scene!