The League of Gentlemen's Reece Shearsmith finds himself confronted by a monster rather than playing one in The Cottage. Alison Jones reports.
Reece Shearsmith is responsible for one of the most singularly chilling characters ever to grace a television screen, The League of Gentlemen's minstrel-faced ring master Papa Lazarau.
But even the sinister polygamist might blanch at some of the horrors perpetrated on Reese and his co-stars in The Cottage.
This British slasher/thriller by London to Brighton director Paul Andrew Williams, is unashamedly - to the point of plagiarism - inspired by films likeTexas Chainsaw Massacre and Dusk till Dawn.
It starts out as a story about a kidnapping gone awry as two brothers, played by Reece and Andy Serkis, hold the latter's boss's daughter (Jennifer Ellison) hostage.
However, the boss is onto their plot and the daughter is cracking heads and taking names.
But the two hitmen sent after the hapless siblings are soon disposed of by something nasty that is lurking in the woods and when Reece and Jennifer seek refuge in a remote farmhouse, the carnage really begins.
"The first half of this script is like a Pinter," enthuses Reece. "It is all script and it's a big argument (between the brothers).
"It is lovely to have that character development in what we could probably call a horror film. Normally they are body counts.
"It matters that you set up the characters and hopefully care before we start getting killed. However bad we have been in the first half none of us deserve the fates we get."
Paul was originally going to make The Cotttage his first film but couldn't get funding for it until after London to Brighton was a surprise hit, He approached Reece, 38, several years ago saying he wanted him to play the part of the henpecked husband/mummy's boy who both loves and fears his much harder brother.
"It was flattering to think that he has written the part for me," says Reece. "Then I read it and thought 'does he think of me as this horrible mean spirited little bald man?'.
" We had a back story for Peter that he's a photocopier in a little suburb and he goes out of that world and he finds himself in this place with his brother."
"I loved being chased down corridors by a man with a machete. I tried to play it as real as I possibly could.
"If you have ever been chased by someone, even as a kid, the adrenaline in that situation you try and apply to a grown man."
The action is set over the course of one night, which meant several weeks of night shoots on the Isle of Man for the increasingly sleep-deprived cast.
"It was like being a security guard for eight weeks," admits Hull-born Reece. "That flip of trying to live in the dark. Not having light on your head for eight weeks does something to you.
"It was gruelling. It sounds pathetic to say that. My brother is a fisherman so when I moan about being an actor I think 'now he has got a hard life'.
"But you couldn't sleep during the day, it didn't seem right. So you'd still get up at 10am having got back at 7am, then you'd have the day to try and feel normal and then the entire night as well, so it all just kind of accrued."
One of the more gruesome pleasures of the movie is the increasingly creative ways in which the central characters are either disabled or dispatched. Autopsies have been completed with less viscera visible.
Reece's character in particular is the target for all kinds of twisted and painful punishment, starting with a vicious head-butting from his hostage and moving onto the removal of the front half of his foot - with a spade.
"It is worse that it is only the toes rather than the whole foot," muses Reece. "It looks more painful." * The Cottage is on at cinema's now