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An Interview with Harley Wallen, Director and Star of Abstruse

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2019

Harley Wallen on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Abstruse - in a few words, what is it about?


Iíd like to think of it almost as a prequel to American Psycho, seeing the psychopath give into his primal urges and then the unraveling, hence my original title ďInto a Dark MindĒ.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing Abstruse?


Kris Reilly auditioned first for the villain in Enigma (where he ended up playing a detective), but the audition moved me and I wanted to see more so I wrote it with that performance in mind.


Abstruse's lead villain Justin is someone who thinks that the rules of law and society don't apply to him - with despicable consequences of course, but how much fun was it, how much satisfaction (if any) did it give you to write such a character?


Itís always intriguing to color outside the lines, and with this character there are no lines, especially after he breaks the seal. I loved his character arc living under his father's thumb, rebelling within the forgivable rules of his father. Then when he finally breaks through we get to see him slowly stand up to his dad and take control in his disillusioned mind heís free but also completely unraveling.


Kris Reilly

Justin aside, Abstruse doesn't have any clear heroes and villains - so who did you identify with the most, and why?


I think I am a big fan of the anti-hero because it shows no matter how flawed we are it is never too late to do the right thing and we can always change our life and direction. So Max, played by Tom Sizemore, Iíd say.


What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


It was tricky because a lot of characters had an arc and it was important to keep them focused on where in the story we were especially since it wasnít shot in order.


You also appear in a key role in front of the camera in Abstruse - so what can you tell us about your character, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and did you write him with yourself in mind from the get-go?


Harley Wallen, Jerry Hayes

I actually didnít write with me in mind, I try not to. Detective Caldwell was an entitled, sly, and slimy guy who had compromised himself and after a few bad choices he was stuck in the bad catch 22. I do enjoy playing those characters for sure. I also wanted the two detectives to be very different or they just take screen time from each other and should have been a single character.


Do talk about the rest of Abstruse's cast, and why exactly these people?


First off I loved seeing Dennis Haskins get an opportunity to showcase he is a good dramatic actor and I saw that in him when we shot Enigma. Second we lucked out with Tom Sizemore, he read the script, fell in love with the story and character, and Iím glad he did, I think he was excellent. The bartenders all killed their auditions so they were fairly easy picks. We tried to figure out whoíd be the right best friend and even though it was a close decision in casting Dennis Marin I think was excellent as Daniel. In general we have a pretty systematic audition process.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


This film was pretty hectic and long days as we had a lot of location moves, but the atmosphere was always up and I could sense people were feeling we were doing something special.


Tom Sizemore, Kaiti Wallen

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Abstruse?


One of my favorite things especially since the film is 1 hour and 57 minutes, at our premiere we had several full auditoriums showing the film simultaneously and in the one I was in (and I hear the same with the others), only a couple of people left to go to the restroom because they felt the anticipation and suspense kept them at the edge of their seat. I felt that was a great compliment! Also itís done absolutely incredible at festivals and to date has won more awards than our other films and some pretty big wins at respectable festivals around the world.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Yes, Iím very excited to be releasing Agramonís Gate in February and thatís another film thatís been doing great at festivals not to mention itís made a couple of lists as most anticipated horror films of 2020! Yan and Laurene both say itís the film their fans ask the most about at horror-cons. Also hearing from my distributor that the pre-sales has been great with a ton of foreign interest.


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


I think that about does it. I appreciate your time checking out Abstruse and doing the interview, much appreciated! Thank you!


Thanks for the interview!




© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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On the same day
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and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD