‘Torn Hearts’ Director Brea Grant on Fist Fights and Southern Hospitality
Brea Grant’s enthusiasm is infectious. She has such a love for the genre and a passion for filmmaking, all shared with a bright and encouraging positivity. Whether she’s involved as an actress, writer, or director, it’s always exciting to see her name attached to a project. She has a keen eye for a great film, so you know you’re in good hands.
Following 12 Hour Shift – now streaming on Shudder – she’s teamed up with Blumhouse and EPIX to tell another Southern tale. Her latest directorial feature, Torn Hearts, follows a country music duo who seek out the private mansion of their idol, and end up in a twisted series of horrors that force them to confront the limits they’d go for their dreams.
I was able to sit down with Brea to discuss Torn Hearts, Katey Sagal, Southern hospitality, and the flaws of a competitive system.
Kelly McNeely: So, Torn Hearts. What drew you to the script? And how did you get involved with the project?
Brea Grant: Blumhouse sent me the script, and I thought it was amazing. I thought the premise was so interesting, I hadn’t seen anything like that before. Because it combines some things that just didn’t get a lot of screentime, right? Country music singers and horror, no one has ever seen that movie before! So that was my immediate draw to it. And I’m from Texas, so that was the other draw. I wanted to do something in that Southern country music world, I thought that would be really fun. I just thought it could be just a really good time, and it’s such a great platform for three amazing actresses. And then we sort of just went from there, and they liked my ideas and let me make the script.
As you said, you have some amazing actresses in this film. Katey Sagal is such a powerhouse, and also has a fantastic musical background, which is incredible. Can you talk a little bit about getting her involved in Torn Hearts and working with her? I remember we’d talked before – with 12 Hour Shift – a little bit about working with more mature actresses, which you were really excited about. They just come with such great knowledge and power, and they’re so impressive!
Yeah, exactly! Which is one of the other things that drew me to the script, is that it had this part for an actress who could bring a lot of gravitas to the role. From the beginning, I knew I wanted singers for all three roles, I wanted them to be able to sing. There is a scene – that you’ve seen, no spoilers – where they all sing together live, and actually recorded that live. That’s the recording from the day that we shot it, and I wanted to be able to do that. And knowing Katey had that music background was very interesting to me. And I was a big fan. We’re all big fans of Katey! I think anyone our age is a fan, because she’s done so much, right? She’s done comedy, she’s done drama, but she’s never done horror. So it felt to me like the perfect opportunity to see if she would do it.
She read the script, and she was like, yeah, I want to come do this movie. And she had a couple of questions, but it was just so wonderful having her there. She’s such a professional, she loves acting, and so for me, it’s like the dream, because I love working with actors. I love getting their input. I love playing with the scene and doing something totally different, and she’s all about that. So it just ended up being a really wonderful experience.
And I love that combination of country music and horror, because as you said, we really don’t see that very often at all, right?
For some reason we keep setting horror movies in like, what camp can it be at? What college can it be at? And I love those movies, don’t get me wrong, and I’m sure I’ll end up making one at some point. But I just thought that this was so interesting to take the world of country music, put a little bit of Misery into it, but also make a statement about the entertainment industry as I go.
And I love that great twist on Southern hospitality –
Yeah! Yeah, come on in, have a drink, you know, but then there’s the inability to say no – it was actually something I talked about with Alexxis [Lemire] and Abby [Quinn] quite a bit, where it’s just hard to say no sometimes. And once you get into the situation where someone is being nice, and they seem like they’re helping you, and you just kind of don’t know when to draw the line. It’s a frog in boiling water situation. They didn’t realize what they were in for until it’s too late.
Absolutely. I do love that, because as a Canadian watching that, I’m like, oh I would be in the same situation. She’s being so nice!
I know! Canadians and Southern people, we’re all doomed in horror movies [laughs].
There’s a really awesome – again, no spoilers – fight scene, which I love because it’s rough and unpolished. Can you talk a little bit about filming that and choreographing that?
Yeah, absolutely! That was something I was really looking forward to. As you know, I love putting a fun song over a sequence, that is my favorite thing to do [laughs]. And I knew I had this fun country song that we recorded, and I knew we’re going to have this sequence that could escalate in this way. So I worked with the stunt coordinator, and he was amazing in helping me figure that whole scene out. Because these are not professional fighters, they are musicians, and if I got in a fight, I would look messy and sloppy, and I just would not be hitting really well. And so we wanted to make sure we captured that. And it’s funny, because they are both athletes, and so they looked really good when they were fighting. But I feel like we kind of captured that messy nature of their relationship, but also of how they actually would fight.
I’m glad you caught that, because my stunt coordinator and I worked a long time on that one trying to make sure it felt realistic. And often women fight differently than men, they swing wilder and they’re less likely to hit – to actually make contact. So we tried to capture some of that.
A little bit more scrappy when we fight, for sure.
Yeah, and these two are scrappy. They are scrappy, and they would get into it in that way. And I had never seen a fight like this between two leads. I feel like often with men, we’ll see two men brawl in a movie, but we don’t often get to see two women fight, and I wanted to have it in the movie.
And there’s so much emotion behind it too, I really love that about it, that was great. Could you talk a little bit about working with Blumhouse?
It was great. It is still great! We’re still working together. I had met them after 12 Hour Shift came out, and they knew that I liked Southern stuff, and I liked stuff that was fun and very entertaining, but also had something to say. And they also knew I was interested in working with women. And they thought of me when they read the script, which was really nice. And they were 100% right. And they’ve just been wonderful. They trusted me with everything, and they’ve given me all the resources I need. It was just a huge honor to be a part of that Blumhouse family.
And with Torn Hearts, as you mentioned, it has something to say, it touches on the entertainment industry and especially the kind of toxic competition between women that’s instigated by men.
One hundred percent.
Could you talk a bit about that and that theme in the film?
That was the biggest thing I wanted to talk about in the movie, that I didn’t want to judge any of these women, I wanted to come at it from a place where they all were doing things that they had been taught to do, or they were trying to go against the system, they all were trying to win over this impossible system in their own way. And if there is a moral – which I do not like morals in my movies – but if there was one, it’s when women fight, they lose. Which at some point, Katey’s character says, and I think that we’re in this industry where we are pitted against each other. There’ll be one project, and five of my female director friends, we’re all pitching on the same project. But all my male friends are pitching on different projects, and it just seems so weird that we all get brought in for the same thing over and over again.
Like here’s a slate, here’s the one woman directing the movie, or the one woman in the cast, or the one female DP, it feels like we’re all being pitted against each other for one role. One job. And I just wanted to kind of get that across, that we’re it’s a system that’s built to make us lose.
Absolutely. I think you did a fantastic job communicating that, because it is so true. I love that your films are so female forward, because I feel like women and the horror genre are kind of in perfect harmony. I think we understand it on this different kind of level. So as someone who has been in front of and behind the camera, what role – whether it’s acting, writing, directing – allows you to better tell these stories? And also, speaking of dream duets in this film, if you could – as either an actress or a writer or director – work with one other person as a dream duet project, who would you want to work with?
Oh, yeah! I like writing and directing. I feel like I found my space now. I mean, I think at this point in my life, it’s where I belong more, rather than in front of the camera. And I think both really allowed me to be able to tell stories that I find interesting, and I like them both for different reasons. I do like being around people, so sometimes I’m like, I just need to be on a set! But I also love my house and I love my dog and I sitting on my couch and just reading and reading and writing all day, that’s not a bad life either. So I think I’ve been very blessed to get to do both.
And um, wow, I can name so many women that I would love to work with. I feel very lucky that I got to work with these women on this movie. But I’ve also been lucky in my past experiences, because I got to work with such cool women. I’m still working with Natasha Kermani, who directed Lucky. We have a couple projects that we’re working on together right now. She’s like the one person that I like writing for on the regular, so she is sort of a dream partner for me.
You can find Torn Hearts as a digital release on Paramount Home Entertainment, starting May 20. Stay tuned for our review.
Evil Tech Might Be Behind an Online Predator Ruse in ‘The Artifice Girl’
An evil A.I. program appears to be behind the fake abduction of a young girl in XYZ’s forthcoming thriller The Artifice Girl.
This movie was originally a festival contender where it garnered the Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award at SXSW, and won Best International Feature at last year’s Fantasia Film Festival.
The teaser trailer is below (a full one will be released soon), and it feels like a twisted take on the cult fave Megan is Missing. Although, unlike Megan, The Artifice Girl isn’t a found footage film it employs third-person computer tech in its narrative.
The Artifice Girl is the directorial feature film debut of Franklin Ritch. The film stars Tatum Matthews (The Waltons: Homecoming), David Girard (short “Teardrop Goodbye with Mandatory Directorial Commentary by Remy Von Trout”), Sinda Nichols (That Abandoned Place, “Bubblegum Crisis”), Franklin Ritch and Lance Henriksen (Aliens, The Quick and the Dead)
XYZ Films will release The Artifice Girl in Theaters, On Digital, and On Demand on April 27, 2023.
A team of special agents discovers a revolutionary new computer program to bait and trap online predators. After teaming up with the program’s troubled developer, they soon find that the AI is rapidly advancing beyond its original purpose.
Latest Shark Movie ‘The Black Demon’ Swims Into Spring
The latest shark movie The Black Demon is preemptively striking audiences who are used to these types of films during the summer by heading to theaters this spring on April 28.
Billed as an “edge-of-your-seat action thriller,” which is what we hope for in a Jaws ripoff, er…oceanic creature feature. But it does have one thing going for it, director Adrian Grunberg whose overly-bloody Rambo: Last Blood wasn’t the worst in that series.
The combo here is Jaws meets Deepwater Horizon. The trailer looks pretty entertaining, but I don’t know about the VFX. Let us know what you think. Oh, and the animal in peril is a black and white Chihuahua.
Oilman Paul Sturges’ idyllic family vacation turns into a nightmare when they encounter a ferocious megalodon shark that will stop at nothing to protect its territory. Stranded and under constant attack, Paul and his family must somehow find a way to get his family back to shore alive before it strikes again in this epic battle between humans and nature.’
‘Scream VII’ Greenlit, But Should the Franchise Take a Decade-Long Rest Instead?
Bam! Bam! Bam! No that’s not a shotgun inside the bodega in Scream VI, it’s the sound of producer’s fists rapidly hitting the green light button to further franchise favorites (i.e. Scream VII).
With Scream VI barely out of the gate, and a sequel reportedly filming this year, it seems horror fans are the ultimate target audience to get ticket sales back at the box office and away from “press play” streaming culture. But maybe it’s too much too soon.
If we haven’t learned our lesson already, banging out cheap horror movies in quick succession isn’t exactly a fool-proof strategy to get butts in theater seats. Let’s pause in a moment of silence to remember the recent Halloween reboot/retcon. Although the news of David Gordon Green blowing off the gossamer and resurrecting the franchise in three installments was great news in 2018, his final chapter did nothing but put the tarnish back on the horror classic.
Possibly drunk on the moderate success of his first two films, Green advanced to a third one very quickly but failed to provide fan service. Criticisms of Halloween Ends mainly hinged on the lack of screen time given to both Michael Myers and Laurie Strode and instead on a new character that didn’t have anything to do with the first two films.
“Honestly, we never once considered making a Laurie and Michael movie,” the director told Moviemaker. “The concept that it should be a final showdown-type brawl never even crossed our minds.”
How’s that again?
Although this critic enjoyed the last film, many found it off-course and perhaps a stand-alone that should have never been connected to the redeveloped canon. Remember Halloween came out in 2018 with Kills releasing in 2021 (thanks to COVID) and finally Ends in 2022. As we know, the Blumhouse engine is fueled by brevity from script to screen, and although it can’t be proven, hammering out the last two films so quickly might have been integral to its critical undoing.
Which brings us to the Scream franchise. Will Scream VII get underbaked purely because Paramount wants to reduce its cooking time? Also, too much of a good thing can make you sick. Remember, everything in moderation. The first movie was released in 1996 with the next almost exactly a year later, then the third three years after that. The latter is considered the weaker of the franchise, but still solid.
Then we enter the decade release timeline. Scream 4 released in 2011, Scream (2022) 10 years after that. Some may say, “well hey, the difference in release times between the first two Scream movies was exactly that of the reboot.” And that is correct, but consider that Scream (’96) was a film that changed horror movies forever. It was an original recipe and ripe for back-to-back chapters, but we are now five sequels deep. Thankfully Wes Craven kept things sharp and entertaining even through all the parodies.
Conversely, that same recipe also survived because it took a decade-long hiatus, giving new trends time to develop before Craven attacked the newer tropes in another installment. Remember in Scream 3, they still used fax machines and flip phones. Fan theory, social media and online celebrity were developing fetuses at that time. Those trends would be incorporated into Craven’s fourth movie.
Fast-forward another eleven years and we get Radio Silence’s reboot (?) which made fun of the new terms “requel” and “legacy characters.” Scream was back and fresher than ever. Which leads us to Scream VI and a change of venue. No spoilers here, but this episode seemed oddly reminiscent of re-hashed past storylines, which may have been a satire in and of itself.
Now, it’s been announced that Scream VII is a go, but it leaves us to wonder how such a short hiatus is going to fare with nothing in the horror zeitgeist to channel. In all of this race to get the big bucks, some are saying Scream VII could only top its predecessor by bringing back Stu? Really? That, in my opinion, would be a cheap effort. Some also say, that sequels often bring in a supernatural element, but that would be out of place for Scream.
Could this franchise do with a 5-7 year hiatus before it ruins itself on principle? That break would allow time and new tropes to develop — the franchise’s life’s blood — and mostly the power behind its success. Or is Scream heading into the “thriller” category, where the characters are just going to face another killer(s) in a mask without the irony?
Perhaps that is what the new generation of horror fans want. It could work of course, but the spirit of the canon would be lost. True fans of the series will spot a bad apple if Radio Silence does anything uninspired with Scream VII. That’s a lot of pressure. Green took a chance in Halloween Ends and that didn’t pay off.
All that being said, Scream, if anything, is a masterclass at building hype. But hopefully, these movies don’t turn into the campy iterations they make fun of in Stab. There is still some life left in these films even if Ghostface doesn’t have time to catnap. But as they say, New York never sleeps.