If you do not know the name Harley Wallen, then it’s time you did. The versatile Swedish-born filmmaker is known for his independent films and use of many twists and turns that do not hinder his films, but rather the opposite and keeps the viewer guessing what will happen next. He’s done sci-fi, family, thrillers, and romantic comedies. His latest film, the horror film Agramon’s Gate, is now available on DVD and on Demand.
WorldFilmGeek had the opportunity to speak with Wallen about his latest film and his love of thrillers and horror.
Harley, I am honored to be talking with you. I’ve seen three of your films in the past six months and what I love is your knack for adding twists and turns that don’t ruin the film, but keep it going until the end. And Agramon’s Gate is definitely no exception there.
Thank you so much! That’s what I like to do with my films. A lot of films these days tend to be simple and makes it easy for the viewer to figure it out from the beginning. I like to keep the viewer guessing and guessing, keeping them engaged in the film. I want them to be like detectives and keep going throughout the film. So I am happy that you enjoyed my films.
What was the inspiration behind Agramon’s Gate?
I don’t have much of an inspiration behind the film, but there are a few factors that got me into writing the film. And this was interesting because a lot of my other films have some sort of inspiration behind it. For instance, Eternal Code was inspired by the story of a decapitated paraplegic and the idea of Frankenstein. It’s interesting and intriguing. For Abstruse, I did a film where Kris Reilly, who had auditioned for my film Enigma, showed a different side to things and I wanted to make him similar to Patrick Bateman in American Psycho with his performance.
For this film, I have to admit I was scared to make it at first. The reason is because the horror fanbase is one who will either love or hate your films. If you do it right, they will love you. If you mess it up, they will destroy you (laughs). I will say I am a huge fan of authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I also love filmmakers as the late Wes Craven and Alfred Hitchcock. I wanted to make a horror film that’s both pretty and scary. So cinematography was important and I wanted to make the story both interesting and intriguing.
You got to work with veterans on your films. In this case, you got to work with Laurene Landon. What was it like working with her on the film?
She is amazing! That scene where she creeps out both her son and daughter-in-law still gives me goosebumps. We had a premiere two weeks ago in Beverly Hills and people kept praising her. They were saying Laurene gave them goosebumps and made their hair stand on the back of their necks. They were convinced she was part of the demon. I mean she was that convincing. As a matter of fact, I have another film lined up and I have a role written just for her. It’s pretty going to be similar to Alice in Wonderland if it was a horror film, about what happens when you go down the rabbit hole.
You tend to play supporting roles in your films and in this case, you play Zeb, a sort of exorcist and demon hunter. Did you do any research into anything involving the paranormal?
Well, when myself and Aphrodite Nikolovski went into our roles of Zeb and Vesna, we tried to figure out what would be the best approach. When we delved into our backstories, we realized we wrote about us as much as the actual film itself (Laughs). We did tons of research to make the characters intriguing. We wanted to make the characters involved quirkier and not the average guy next door. I mean, Beetlejuice wouldn’t be the film it is if the other characters were just normal. So we wanted to go for something similar. So as we set the film in New Orleans, we made my character French and Vesna Cajun.
Zeb’s backstory is that I’ve done this since I was very young and I had a girlfriend who was possessed by Agramon and in my effort to save her, I lost an eye and lost her as well. We even gave Agramon a bit of a backstory as well and interesting enough, people said we should make a prequel that would delve into that story. And I tell them, I’m seriously thinking about doing it.
I would definitely want to see that.
That’s great to hear. It is important because the backstory of Agramon was one thing we had to put on the cutting room floor because I wanted to tell the story without making it too long. The film runs at 1 hour and 50 minutes but the first cut without the credits ran at 2 hours and 13 minutes. Some filmmakers tend to be able to tell their stories at a reasonable pace. With Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I hear we’re going to get a director’s cut that runs almost 3 hours long. I didn’t want to make the film too short at 90 minutes, which is the average. I want to keep the viewer engaged without making it too short or long.
You have done films in various genres. Do you have a favorite genre to work with?
Well, I think a film has to have a good story in it. But, I will say I really love thrillers and horror films more than any other genre. With those genres, you get a sense of seeing the true visions of the filmmakers. I’ve done my share of family films and rom-coms. However, I don’t want to make it a habit like do a Hallmark Channel film or that stuff. I think it’s okay to occasionally do those, but I like working in many genres.
Do you have any favorite horror films?
Well, technically this is not horror, but I love The Bone Collector with Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman’s Along Came a Spider because the stories are well done. As for horror films, my favorites are The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and House of Wax. I also love Bram Stoker’s Dracula and From Dusk til Dawn because it’s like Robert Rodriguez took everything from the B-movie era and made an A-movie out of it, so while it’s more of an action film with horror tones, I still love that one.
What can we expect next from you?
I have a project in post-production right now. It’s a new horror film called Ash and Bone. I can say it’s pretty much if The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and House of Wax have a child together (Laughs). It’s the story of a rebellious girl who attempts to patch her relationship with her family. They do on a trip and she decides to explore the backwoods after being fascinated with the folklore of a clan, the McKinleys. This is my strongest film yet in terms of visuals and it’s not going to be straightforward, but rather do my thing of twists and turns with the intention of really showing that this is not about demons but very dangerous inbred psychopaths.
I have another film that begins shooting in April. It’s going to be a vampire film set in the Viking World to start. It’s going to be an origin story where a vampire is supposedly killed by Vikings and when they learn he can’t die, they put him into a coffin and send him across the Atlantic. 1200 years later, he has awakened, and he is hungry. The tone is going to be dark because I want to bring back the dark vampire films and not bring anything glittery or super sexy. I want to bring something similar to 30 Days of Night and Let the Right One In with this film.
That’s awesome and I would love to see both films, especially Ash and Bone. I can’t wait for that one. Agramon’s Gate is now out and any horror film needs to see this film with its intricate twists and turns. Matter of fact, any film fan should start watching your films because you’re an extraordinary filmmaker who keeps the viewer engaged.
Thank you so much! When I get close to a release date for Ash and Bone, I definitely would enjoy chatting with you again.
That would be so awesome Harley. Thank you again for taking the time to talk.
Thank you for having me!
A Special Thank You goes to October Coast PR and Harley Wallen for making this interview possible.