Horror has been good to Danielle Panabaker. At only 25-years-old, the bubbly actress has already appeared in 2009’s Friday the 13th, The Crazies remake, Piranha 3DD and The Ward. Now, there’s Girls Against Boys.
Opening in New York and Los Angeles theaters on February 1st, the Austin Chick -directed movie follows college student Shae (Panabaker) as she is terrorized by several men over the course of a few days. Pushed over the edge, Shae teams up with co-worker Lu (Nicole LaLiberte) for a gruesome killing spree against her attackers and any other male unlucky enough to cross their path. But not everything is as it seems and Shae must wrestle with her personal demons to break free of Lu’s seductive control. Panabaker spoke exclusively to me by phone about Shae, exacting revenge and her dream horror role.
What impressed you about the script for Girls Against Boys?
There are a lot of films where women have the role of someone’s wife or girlfriend or daughter or sister. This is a role that was really about women, and in particular, one woman’s experience. It felt to me like a coming of age story. This young woman in New York, who has gone off to college, unfortunately goes through this really traumatic event. I’ve always seen it as a coming of age story and that was really appealing to me to see the whole life of this character in the movie.
Can you talk about what brings Shae to the breaking point? Is Lu partially to blame?
Absolutely. Necessity is the mother of invention, so who knows what really brought Lu into her life. I think the assault was pretty jarring to her and something like that doesn’t go away over night. Shae needed a way to deal with it.
Describe Shae’s dynamic with Lu and how it changes over the arc of the movie.
Their relationship is complicated. If it was described on Facebook, it would certainly say it’s “complicated.” From Shae’s perspective, the relationship starts out as a guardian angel, someone who comes in, who has been on the peripheral of your life and now all of a sudden, she’s front and center. That’s where their relationship begins. You get to see this friendship flourish, especially as Lu takes an older sister role as a protector. We can all relate to having someone who showed us the ropes, in one way or another. That’s how the relationship begins and Shae then goes through something really terrible. Lu is there to pick her up, get her back on her feet and helps her get going. Shae places a lot of trust in Lu. I might argue it is misplaced trust, but it certainly got her going.
In Friday the 13th, The Crazies and Piranha 3DD, you were on the receiving end of some brutal punishment. Did it feel good dishing it out for a change?
It was great and really fun, as sort of messed up as that sounds. It was great, as a woman, to see a woman really taking charge. Particularly in iconic stories like Friday the13th, the women are always “getting their due” for being a slut or having bad behavior. It was nice to see the tables turned in this film.
How graphic is Girls Against Boys compared to some of your other projects?
I would say it’s definitely not as graphic. Our film was made for less than a million dollars and one of the limitations of having such a small budget is you don’t have a lot of money for special effects. The day we were shooting the cutting of the feet scene, we showed up on set and there was supposed to be one left foot and one right foot. Unfortunately, they had sent two left feet and they also looked terrible. Austin had to really adapt and didn’t shoot that scene the way he had anticipated because he didn’t have all the tools at his disposal. I actually think it’s a great thing because it leaves it so much more to an audience member’s imagination. You don’t see very much happening, but you can hear it. That gives me goosebumps. I would say it’s not visually as bloody as other films that I have done, but it’s still jarring.
Do you have a favorite disturbing sequence you really got into?
Not particularly. Working with blood is so difficult. It’s so sticky and you can’t get rid of it. It never goes away and gets under your fingernails. I think the scene in the club is pretty fantastic and chaotic.
Considering the physical and psychological ordeal Shae endures, were the girls justified with their revenge?
Personally, I think murder is too far, but what’s great about this film is there is an element of Alice fell down the rabbit hole. You got to the end of the film and that scene in the stairwell… it’s a question of what really happened here? Or was it more of a Fight Club moment? In my world, it would have been too far, but Shae needed a way to cope with that.
You go to some dark places here. Was this a draining role to take on?
It was exhausting. We shot some crazy hours. I was on set most days. It was very draining, but I’m so proud of it. It was all worth it in the end. I remember our last day of shooting, they had dropped me off at 4 a.m. and were coming back to pick me at 8 a.m. I thought I would never make it. There was no amount of caffeine in the world that would help. I’m so glad we did it and powered through.
Ultimately, what does this movie say about human nature?
There’s a part of this film that a lot of people can relate to, which is when someone has wronged them, there tends to be this feeling of, “Oh, I wish I could get them back. I wish I could make them see the pain they have caused me.” Shae’s way of coping, real or fantasy, is something people can relate to, especially when it involves a member of the opposite sex. We all fantasize about getting that person back.
In terms of horror, you’ve been in a popular franchise, a remake, camped it up in a sequel and now this psychological thriller. What else would you like to explore in this genre?
I was watching all the previews for Hansel and Gretel and I would love to be a badass action hero. I would love to strap on a leather suit and kick some witch butt. I would love the physical challenge of learning a martial art. I could definitely see myself doing something like that.