Sam Lane Unmasked: An Interview with Dark Temple's resident creature performer
What good is a horror movie without its monster?
From swinging a chainsaw in Escape From Cannibal Farm to munching on human flesh as a fish-mutant in The Barge People, my go-to monster man for the past nine years (!) and counting, is also one of my closest friends, Sam Lane.
Charlie Steeds: Firstly, how do we know each other & what films of mine have you played a monster in?
Sam Lane: We first met on a school trip to France where we shared a near death experience in a canoe... soon after we became best friends.
CS: We accidentally steered off into an out-of-bounds rapids, you were quite shaken up!
SL: Since then I've been in most of your films, starting from age 14. We used to film after school and on weekends, in your garage, at the bottom of your garden or the nearby woods, with spray painted toy guns, a big tub of fake blood and your camcorder.
CS: The good old days! You were involved from my 2nd short film onwards, made in June 2009, so 9 years ago! All shot on MiniDV tapes to start with, we had the best times! Since then what monsters have you played? Which has been your favourite?
SL: I’ve lost count! I have played everything from a demonic clown to an alien, a post-apocalyptic scavenger to a goon, a cannibal to a gas mask wearing dwarf. I would have to say my favourite monster to perform was when I played a cannibal in Labyrinthia (AKA 'Deadman Apocalypse' in the USA).
CS: Oh really? That surprises me actually. Why that one in particular?
SL: I had to crawl ferociously down a small tunnel, that was only about waist height, with only small rags to cover my modesty and a sweaty saliva covered mask sliding all over my face blocking my vision.
CS: Right. Makes sense now...
SL: My favourite costume to be in also happens to be a cannibal of the other variety; when I played
Sammy Hansen in Escape from Cannibal Farm. It had just the right ratio of comfort to scary.
CS: That's good to know. I'm curious now, what had the worst ratio of comfort to scary?
SL: My least comfortable costume had to be when I played a death penalty victim in a short film called ‘Death Law’.
CS: That wasn't really a costume, you were just topless and wrapped in spiked metal chains, bound to a chair.
SL: With a straw sack over my head! The weight of the chain was causing it to slide down my body making the spikes dig into my skin scratching it as it slid, only to have it pulled back up around my shoulders and then to have it happen all over again. In one scene I had to topple the chair and slam to the ground, with nothing to break my fall, while still wrapped in the spikey chain.
CS: Yeah you did that really well and it looked super painful! Do you enjoy being under all that make up/blood and sweaty masks?
SL: Yes absolutely, of course I love it. I get to be the monster! The thing everybody fears. I get the big gasp or scream whenever people watch the movie. I get to see people covering their eyes and looking away as my character enters or when they see parts of my performance. It’s extremely satisfying.
CS: But it definitely comes with its challenges?
SL: It’s certainly not as glamorous as it may appear; with the weather and temperature, that seems to primarily work against you and the fake blood (that’s without a doubt ice cold) it can lead to some rather prolonged uncomfortable situations. That’s all part of the fun though.
CS: Well I find it fun! What's the craziest thing(s) I've made you do?
SL: Every time I get asked this question I always flashback to this one winter when we were filming a short film called ‘Ignis Fatuus’. I was thinly wrapped in bandages and covered in black body paint. I had to crawl barefoot out of this dirty pipe that had a stream going through it, with mud and rocks.
CS: Yes, I think what you're describing there is a sewer.
SL: It must have been two or three degrees.
CS: Well it was January!
SL: I was freezing in the middle of the woods, we were there for hours and I didn’t have a change of clothes or a coat! That’s one that always seems to stick in my mind for some reason! Although, very recently I did have to get in a canal at one o’clock in the morning and fully submerge myself whilst wearing a big rubber mask which caused a number of complications. Including having to try and hold myself under water with the biggest rock I could find, due to the buoyancy of the mask, and then going to the doctors a week later to check I didn’t have Weil’s Disease from swallowing a mouthful of stagnant river water. Oh and did I mention it was October in the UK!
CS: That was for The Barge People! I did tell you not to swallow the water. Even under the mask there's lots of physicality and movement and expressions which you're amazingly good at. In all honesty that's why I cast you again and again, you bring an energy to it! How do you go about performing these characters? What's your process?
SL: Well, there really is only one way to approach it and it’s the only way I know how - by throwing myself full heartedly into it! Whether it’s a scene where I have to scurry down a small wooden tunnel, smash people with sledge hammers, eat people alive or throw myself across a room onto a table, smashing everything off in the process. You almost need to have a disregard for your own wellbeing to truly get the shot that is needed or one that myself and you would both be happy with. I take a few seconds before the shot to get in the right headspace, before I fully commit to the take.
CS: You go for it! I wouldn't ask you to do anything seriously harmful but I do ask you do do stuff that's
likely to be pretty painful. I love that you have that dedication to making the shots and action work.
SL: You understand my process, you give me the time I need and talk it through with me. You understand it so well, that at this point it’s turned from my process into our process. You know exactly what I’m thinking, our communication on set is pretty intuitive so even when I don’t get it right straight away it doesn’t take much to explain what you need from me.
CS: That pretty true actually, you're so easy to direct. The more you work with someone the more you just know exactly what you need from each other. And now you're on the front cover of my first DVD release, Escape From Cannibal Farm, available here in the UK this September and already out in the US, Canada and Japan among other places, how has it been to see what we do grow into where we are today?
SL: Having been involved in your films since the start I've been able to watch them progress from such humble beginnings and have seen them develop to where they are today, which has been amazing! The whole process has changed, and it’s awesome to see now that the reach is growing. Seeing myself on the front of magazines and DVD covers and being able to go online and purchase the films from different countries, it’s crazy when you think about where it all started. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the feeling you get whilst on your sets. It still has the same drive from you which gets everyone believing in your vision, working together to make it happen.
Escape From Cannibal Farm is out September 24th and available to pre-order here: