Actress Robin McLeavy is best known for her theatre work, treading the boards opposite greats like Cate Blanchett. But that’s about to change, following her leading role as the terrifying villain in excellent new outback horror flick The Loved Ones. We went to see how scary she is in real life…

What’s the film about? It’s like a date movie gone horribly wrong. It’s kind of a mish mash between Pretty in Pink and Wolf Creek. There’s a lot of Misery thrown in as well. It’s just a terrifying romantic journey!

Did you relish playing the villain? Yeah. When I read the script I thought, wow what an amazing opportunity to play a really unhinged, hormonal, brattish, young woman.

How does it feel after a day at the office torturing people? It is a little empowering, because I was so terrified of horror films before making The Loved Ones. Just the process of seeing how they make all the prosthetics, all the artistry that goes into making the effects look so good, it was just a really fascinating process for me. I became infatuated with blood.

Is it quite different to other horrors? I suppose it is different because the main villain is a female, which is a pretty rare thing. Normally the woman is half-dressed and screaming and running away from the psycho with the knife. In this film it’s the boy screaming and half-naked, running away, haha. It’s a really great twist on the traditional gender roles in horror.

And there’s a lot of dark humour… It is a really dark gruesome tale, but at the same time you kind of have to laugh because the scenario is so bizarre, celebrating prom with your dad and your captive boyfriend.

The film’s torture methods are based on a real US murderer aren’t they? Yeah, Jeffrey Dahmer was [director] Sean Byrne’s main source material. That’s where the frontal lobotomy stuff comes from. It’s actually a procedure that works. You can essentially zombify somebody and destroy their will permanently. I read a lot of that material when we started, but it was so disturbing, I just moved away completely from that because it was freaking me out. I had to work from more of a creative angle in getting inside Lola’s head. The only vocabulary she has for being intimate is through violence, it’s the only way she knows how to be close to someone.

It’s been called the best Aussie horror film since Wolf Creek. Did you like Wolf Creek? I think it was fantastic. It sort of led us to feel like we could create iconic Australian villains.

Why are outback towns such good horror film settings? I guess it’s that isolation, the feeling of being completely isolated and separated from civilisation. You’re really out on your own, it’s the survival of the fittest.

Your face is on posters everywhere in Sydney at the moment. How’s it feel being on the side of buses? I didn’t know they were going to be on the buses. One day I was running to catch one and I was running towards my own face. Ha, that was kind of weird. The Loved Ones is in cinemas from Thursday 4 November.