Everybody loves the girl next door, especially if the said girl next door is in a horror movie. We’ve hit up a few Scream Queens in past articles of Dissecting the…, but there seemed to be one glaring omission that stops now: the lovely Danielle Panabaker. From THE CRAZIES to FRIDAY THE 13TH to THE WARD to PIRANHA 3DD to next month’s GIRLS AGAINST BOYS, Panabaker has been at the forefront of horror over the years and it’s about time she’s given some goddamn respect. And besides, out of all the girls next door out there, wouldn’t you want Panabaker as your neighbor? You’re damn right you would.
Panabaker tends to do a solid job in every movie she’s in, even if they’re crappy, but when she’s good in good movies, the results are even better. She made a first impression on the slightly underrated thriller MR. BROOKS alongside Kevin Costner and Demi Moore, but let’s get down to it: her best movie, by far, is the fantastically made remake of THE CRAZIES from director Breck Eisner. Co-starring Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell, Panabaker played the ultimate girl next door and young love interest when a town is infected by a seriously bad case of… well, the crazies. The flick breathed new life into the ‘zombie’ genre and featured a few epic sequences (the car wash!) that made it way more than your average remake. Hell, I’d say the remake is even better than the original. Yup, I said it.
While she’s incredibly beautiful and talented beyond belief, she does happen to pick a stinker to star in from time to time. But honestly, if you’re an up and coming actress and was offered starring roles in high profile / big budget movies like the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake and PIRANHA 3DD, would you turn them down? Hell nah. You’d sign up in a jiffy and trust the filmmakers know enough of what they’re doing to make some extremely awesome movies. But let’s face it, these two movies sucked. FRIDAY TH 13TH at least has the right spirit about it and actually offers a few solid scenes that almost makes it good (the opening sequence in particular is pretty great), but it eventually falls apart by the end and not even Panabaker, our strong-willed damsel in distress, could save it from itself. But it’s not horrendous and I don’t begrudge the few out there who enjoy it.
However, this can’t be said for PIRANHA 3DD. What a pile of steaming dogshit this movie was. All they had to do was make a fun-filled gorefest like its predecessor and it would have been a surefire hit. And they basically had the right idea: piranhas at a water park. Epic, right? Right… until the actual piranha feeding at the water park actually happens and then it’s painfully apparent that the filmmakers had no f*caking clue as to what they were doing. I love me a good monster movie that’s so bad it’s good, that knows what it is and doesn’t care, that airs on SyFy late Friday and Saturday nights. But this? Atrocious. Panabaker does her due diligence in trying to restore class as the main female heroine, but there’s too much wrong going on here that even having her prance around in short-shorts and a bikini top couldn’t save this movie from itself.
The “classic” Scream Queen is blonde, bubbly, and incredibly stupid. But as we’re here in 2013, that doesn’t hold true so much, as most tend to be brunette, strong-willed and empowered, and incredibly intelligent. And Panabaker hits all those marks and then some. She’s beautiful, she’s thoughtful (not dumbfounded), and she’s just slightly vulnerable but can definitely take care of herself without needing a man swoop in and save the day. While it’s not my favorite, a great example of a classic Panabaker performance is FRIDAY THE 13TH, as she hits all those strives and then some. She’s also never a slut, which is probably why she lives to see the end of most (not all!) of the movies she’s in. In some ways, she’s a lot like the legendary Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis, and I hope she sticks around in the genre long enough to show her full potential.
Speaking of hot chicks and Scream Queens and horror legends and Jamie Lee Curtis, one little flick that Panabaker starred in is one that many have heard about but few have seen… and that’s John Carpenter’s THE WARD, co-starring the incredible Amber Heard. Set inside a mental institution for women, THE WARD is a quaint little horror flick that plays on jump scares, ghost stories, and crazy bitches being crazy. Panabaker is one of the few crazy bitches who has her head screwed on straighter than the majority of the others and ends up being a real ally to Heard’s character. While it’s not classic Carpenter nor is it anything more than a SyFy movie-of-the-week, it’s actually a lot better than people give it credit—and much of that is due to Heard and Panabaker both being a)hot and b) talented. There are definitely worse ways to spend 90 minutes. The Ward
Coming out in a limited release via Anchor Bay Films is the latest crazy chick / revenge flick GIRLS AGAINST BOYS, starring Panabaker in the lead role as a chick scorned by a few men in her life (a nasty break-up and a brutal rape), only to meet up with a seemingly sane yet crazy chick who helps her execute a hefty amount of revenge and then some. Panabaker rocks a pair of daisy dukes throughout most the movie, which is great, and gives a pretty solid performance as a woman scorned. The revenge sequences hit the nail on the head and when the crazies start to ooze out of her co-star it’s very SINGLE WHITE FEMALE-ish. If you dig these two sub-genres of the horror/thriller variety, you should check it out. Not as classic as FATAL ATTRACTION or I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, but it’s entertaining and Panabaker is great in it. She also has another flick called DECONSTRUCTION RED coming out later this year that dabbles in the serial killer genre. Least to say, Panabaker is on fire right now!
From high profile projects (FRIDAY THE 13TH and THE CRAZIES) to low budget horror (GIRLS AGAINST BOYS and PIRANHA 3DD) to the occasional TV appearance (like GRIMM, where she played a sexy showgirl), Panabaker is one of these up and coming actresses who has made a name for herself in the horror genre and continues to do so, quickly giving her the Scream Queen status every actress strives for (and if they don’t, then shame on them). While every movie she’s in isn’t solid gold, Panabaker gives her heart and soul into each and every role she plays, giving her characters strength and vulnerability, and making you give a f*ck about whether she lives or dies. Plus, she’s living proof that yes, brunettes have just as much fun (if not more!) as blondes, making this girl next door one of the hottest in Hollywood (and horror) right now.