Writer- Director Harley Wallen turns a major corner in his unsettling and ghostly chiller Agramon’s Gate, one of the better horror film releases of 2020. In a solid and tour de force one hour and fifty minute running time, Wallen delivers a hybrid story that combines and marries all of the best elements of horror, thrillers and mysteries. It’s a story that comes out of the –ahem – gates swinging and doesn’t let up, holding its audience in a delightfully spooky spell.
The premise is simple enough as written by Wallen: A fun get-together by a group of friends turns absolutely deadly when a medium and a psychic at the soiree inadvertently summon something sinister from the other side that goes by the moniker of Agramon. To say that Agramon is not amused by its summoning might just be a tad bit of an understatement and the unfortunate partygoers are quick to learn that some forces are better left alone.
These are all pretty standard horror movie tropes that we’ve seen a million times and at first one wonders what stale leftovers we might have to endure for the nearly two hour running time. Your concern is misplaced as, in writer and director Harley Wallen’s expert hands, what we have in the form of Agramon’s Gate is nothing less than a disturbing chiller that will haunt your nightmares and your waking hours; credit clever writing and a super-strong backstory for the evil of Agramon. Wallen is a veteran of film and he’s at his most terrifying best in this eerie tale. The suspense and scares are all taut and top-notch and the film benefits by its storyteller’s mastery of the medium: Wallen is one of the most economical and creative filmmakers going right now, and Agramon’s Gate is an example of a master at the top of his game.
Credit too should be given to a wonderful cast that hits all of the right notes and properly conveys a humor that all-too quickly turns into very believable terror. Laurene Landon and Yan Birch – stars of Maniac Cop and The People Under the Stairs, respectively – sizzle and scare in the backstory. Troy Randal-Kilpatrick as Detective Blackwell and Mason Heidger, Calhoun Koenig and even Harley Wallen himself (in an excellent turn as Zeb) all get in on the action and deliver some of the best and most understated acting in a genre film since It Follows.
Speaking of It Follows, a very oppressive and ominous score decorated that classic film and Agramon’s Gate also shines with a creeping and omnipresent soundtrack that functions almost as another character in the proceedings. For this extra bonus we must credit maestro Bon Lucas, who is the composer on this film. Lucas knows what most horror film fans acknowledge; oft times sans the right music to set a mood in a thriller, an entire film can fall flat. This reviewer is reminded of the oft-repeated bromide of legendary director John Carpenter screening a test print of his famed Halloween film for studio executives; none of them apparently “got” the film until Carpenter dropped in his own now classic score. Suddenly the movie “popped” and the rest, as they say, is history. This underscores just how important score is for any movie, especially horror. Lucas and Wallen obviously understand the importance and their collaboration, much like Wallen’s story itself, will haunt you for days after your first viewing.
Agramon’s Gate is a scary little gem worth rounding up and checking out over on Amazon Prime streaming.