Holy cats! Or in the case of this last battle: Holy flies! Or perhaps Holy blobs!
It was a small turnout at the voter booths for our last two ladies as they wind down their epic battle in the Ultimate Horror Lady ring.
It appears as though, when judging your favorite lady covered in slime – you preferred Geena Davis’ lovelorn Veronica Quaife in Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly, over Shawnee Smith’s spunky heroine Meg Penny in the 1988 remake of The Blob. So with 15 total votes for Davis and 11 votes for Smith – we’ll bid a fond farewell to Shawnee and open our arms for a big “maggot-baby” hug for Davis and welcome her into the forthcoming semi-finals! On to your new destinies ladies, as we announce our next fight!
Up first in this new battle – one I’ve appropriately named, “Creepy Dolls vs. Creepy Clown (costumes)”, is Catherine Hicks as Karen Barclay in the original Tom Holland-directed Child’s Play.
Upon this recent revisit to prep for this battle, the film holds up surprisingly well, and Hicks delivers the goods. She totally commits to the role, and in this write-up, we’ll examine her strongest moments.
As is always the case in these match-ups, we’ll take some time to recognize some of her quieter scenes, before all hell breaks loose in the Barclay household.
One of my favorites, was Andy (Alex Vincent – who was equally remarkable) introducing his mother to Chucky’s speaking features. Her genuine surprise at Chucky’s bells and whistles, not to mention wearing on her sleeve, an inner monologue of “you scored big with this birthday present”, make this smaller moment a great win for Hicks.
I’m also a fan of her brief phone call from her job to check on Andy – who is being baby-sat by friend Maggie (Dinah Manoff). It’s a little bit – but enough to show concern, not only for Andy, but for Maggie’s jumpy state of mind. It’s a nice transition in the conversation for Karen, as Maggie comforts Karen’s mild fear that “something is wrong”. And when Hicks’ face lightens and they share a joke, you know at that moment that Hicks can take Karen from 0 to 60 in a few seconds – if it comes to that.
And since this is a horror flick, that’s exactly what she’ll have to do.
As for the barrage of “scream-y” moments in the film, Hicks has no shortage. One of her best is when she tries to convince Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon – who incidentally worked with director Holland on Fright Night) that Chucky came alive with no batteries and then attacked her. Norris drives her home and she refuses to get out of the car until he listens to her story. When he finally physically removes her and says “good night” a hundred times, she reminds him of his first meeting with her, where he said he “didn’t like loose ends”. She forcefully tells him that she is “a loose end”. It’s in this moment where we see not only Karen’s desperation and fear, but there’s also a wonderful inkling from Hicks – that Karen is well aware of how ridiculous her rantings are. You get the sense that not only does Karen find this whole situation unbelievable, but so does Hicks. We don’t know what Hicks’ mindset was when she first read the script, but as is mentioned above, she dives head-first into this world and doesn’t let go. That’s what I loved about Hicks as Karen.
She’s one helluva screamer as well, as is evidenced by the multiple chase scenes she must endure. But nothing says “quality” horror film actress – as when Karen sits on the bedroom floor, desperately holding the bathroom door shut. While on the other side, Chucky is repeatedly penetrating the door with his knife – methodically getting closer to Karen’s skull with each thrust (that almost sounds perverse, but I digress). It’s Hicks’ reaction to each jab – resulting in a final moment of anticipation and resignation, but the knife never comes again. She knows she’s done for, but is then mercifully let off the hook. Oh, how good is Hicks in this sequence?
And her final brilliance comes when she unloads Norris’ gun on the charred remnants of Chucky’s plastic (on its way to human) body. This is an overdone horror (or film in general) trope, of the crazed person continuing to pull the gun’s trigger, long after all the rounds have been expelled. But what does it for me here, is the look on Hicks’ face. As I said above, she gives into all that is happening to the character she is portraying, and naturally, when the time came to pull that trigger over and over, Hicks’ gets lost. It’s just all around a very realistic and detailed performance.
It’s been such a long time since I allowed for some Child’s Play in my life, but it all worked, and Hicks’ managed to impress me again. So I can say that I’m glad she found her way into this competition. Let’s see how she fares against her worthy ring-mate!
Hicks’ competitor in this battle (does the title give you a clue-in?) is a very young Danielle Harris as Jamie Lloyd – the object of Michael Myers’ affections in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. This was a tough call – on two levels. One: Do I choose Harris for her performance in this sequel, or do I give her the kudos for Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers? After polling several friends, I determined that Return would be the ideal choice. The second dilemma was if I should call out Ellie Cornell’s riveting performance as Jamie’s foster-sister, Rachel Carruthers. While Ellie was always on my list (but didn’t make the 32 ladies to actually compete), I decided not to pit her against her on-screen “sibling”. And thus, she gets an honorable mention only.
But let’s turn back to the impressive work of 10-year old Harris (who has had one amazing career – much of it in the horror genre). The beginning of the film finds Jamie in a bad place – thankfully with a loving foster family, but without her biological parents (one of which is Laurie Strode) who were killed less than a year ago. Harris brings great depth to the role, showing us immediately how fragile Jamie is. She’s having nightmares, and carrying around some heavy-duty grief. And those sad eyes of hers draw you into her plight.
Early on in the film, when we are first introduced to Jamie, she is up late at night, watching the rain (and the strange ambulance parked across the street) before Rachel comforts her and sends her to bed. In the tense sequence when Jamie is alone in her room, and the bedroom closet continually re-opens – all before Michael “The Nightmare Man” makes his appearance in Jamie’s dream – she closes the door and as she turns away, looks over her shoulder with slight apprehension and suspicion. It’s this moment which automatically proves Harris (even at this green age) has an acting gift. We don’t know if this was a suggestion from director Dwight Little or something that was clear to Harris as she shot the scene. But it is small details like these which can move a decent performance into the heights of something amazing.
And boy, can Harris scream! Right away in this opening scene, she screams as Michael appears next to her bed. She screams as Michael appears in her doorway. Why, it seems that from this first Halloween appearance (she’d later join the franchise again as Annie Brackett in the Rob Zombie remakes) that she was destined to be a scream queen! If not that, certainly a talented, working actress in Hollywood!
Other favorite moments from Harris as Jamie – when she and Rachel have become separated on this ill-fated night of trick-or-treating, and Jamie hears someone following her. She turns and with as much bravery as she can muster, warns the stalker that “I have a big dog with me. And he bites!” It’s here that we see Jamie’s strength while the wobble in her voice shows that much of it is just an act. Jamie’s a damaged soul, and Harris is able to make us care for her, fear for her and by the end of the film, and its frightening stinger – pity her. Jamie’s stuck in this world and there’s simply no way out. It hurts.
The story has nicely set up that Jamie is teased at school for having a psychopath as her uncle (she can’t control that, poor thing!) and so when Rachel actually confirms this fact to another character – in Jamie’s presence, Jamie loses it. It’s a shining moment for Harris and once again, she proves that as an actor – no matter what age – you’ve either got it, or you don’t!
But the crowning achievement for Harris comes as Jamie and Rachel narrowly escape Michael on the roof of Sheriff Meeker’s home. Jamie is able to get down relatively safely, but Rachel falls the entire two stories. Jamie rushes over to Rachel’s motionless body and with these three heartbreaking words, and her impeccable delivery – our love for Jamie is sealed. “Come alive, Rachel”. When Rachel doesn’t reply, Jamie breaks down (another stellar moment) before Michael appears and continues the chase.
So who is going to get your vote on this one? Catherine Hicks as the concerned and frightened mother who won’t take no for an answer in Child’s Play? Or Danielle Harris as little Jamie Lloyd, taking up the tradition from Jamie Lee Curtis when battling Michael Myers in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers?
As always, you can vote right here on our site, or over on our Facebook page – or if you like, do so on Twitter, with the words “Ultimate Horror Lady” and then either #catherinehicks or #danielleharris!
Join in the fun and spread the word! Only 5 more prelim battles remain, before we venture into the land of semi-finals, and the top 16 ladies! What battles are still unannounced? Stay tuned!