New movie The Snowman turns a benign children's creation into a deeply sinister symbol - a new addition to the list of creepy film figures.

"And then we have clowns, dolls, and little scary girls in corridors,” joked actress Rebecca Ferguson.

She stars alongside Michael Fassbender as members of an elite crime squad, tracking a winter-based serial killer who uses snowmen for murderous inspiration.

The film is based on a book from the best-selling Norwegian series about Detective Harry Hole. Sometimes considered the Sherlock Holmes of Scandinavia, people pay to go on walking tours of the book's locations in Oslo.

The last investigator Fassbender played was decidedly less famous - a character on a short-lived BBC show in 2002.

"I actually played a detective before in something called NCS Manhunt. Go out there and find it if you can,” he said.

Production of The Snowman took cast and crew to various locations in Norway, where the isolation and inclement weather were authentic.

"As long as you get your feet sorted, keep your feet dry, the rest is fine,” Fassbender said. “It's a sort of dry cold and quite fresh and invigorating actually."

The Snowman is rated R and opens in Seattle on October 20.