Set deep in the music scene of Nashville, Torn Hearts asks the age-old question; how far would you go to achieve your dreams?
Produced by Blumhouse Television and Epix, written by Rachel Koller Croft, and directed by Brea Grant, Torn Hearts follows an ambitious country music duo – Jordan (Abby Quinn) and Leigh (Alexxis Lemire) – striving to get their big break. When opportunity knocks, they shoot their shot by seeking out the private mansion of their idol, country music legend Harper Dutch (Katey Sagal). After a night of awkwardly imposed Southern hospitality, the girls end up in a twisted series of horrors that force them to confront the limits they’d go to for stardom.
Torn Hearts combines country music and horror; not a common pairing, but a welcome one. The music is heartfelt and soulful, and there’s a folksy charm that makes the setting feel concrete and outside of the world of horror. Before things turn sour, it’s very easy to forget that it’s a genre film.
Once Harper is introduced, that reality comes rushing in. Sagal as Harper has an imposing strength. She’s absolutely excellent in the role, playing Harper with a vulnerability that almost covers her lunacy. She’s cold and calculating, but offers just enough warmth to keep the fires of hope going. Harper offers both the carrot and the stick, giving a golden opportunity with one hand, and unsettling mind games with the other.
In Sagal, Quinn, and Lemire, Grant has a talented cast of musicians. It gives an earthy quality to the film, and it’s even more impressive to learn that one particular sequence was recorded live when filming the scene.
Grant works extremely well with her cast to bring out the best in their performances. And – as with 12 Hour Shift – it’s always exciting to see a strong role for a mature actress to really play with, particularly in genre cinema. As a character, Harper Dutch may be up there with Annie Wilkes and Pamela Voorhees. We need more of that.
The set and production design really are impeccable. Harper’s stately, hyper-feminine manor is like a candy-coated, abrasively pink version of the Bates family home. The once elegant life inside it has faded, as if the Barbie Dream House was owned by Baby Jane. It’s stunning, and off-putting, and it’s the perfect setting for a bit of sinister Southern hospitality.
Aside from the country and chaos, Torn Hearts does have quite a bit to say. It focuses on relationships (business, familial, and personal) and the roles that women are offered in society. We’re supposed to be sisterly but catty, be supportive but superior, and keep high standards but be sexually available.
Above that, Torn Hearts is about the reality of the entertainment industry and the ways that women are essentially cornered into competition with one another. All fighting for the same limited opportunities. As director Brea Grant says, “It’s a system that’s built to make us lose”.
With Torn Hearts, Croft and Grant explore what happens when a once-beloved star fades past her expiry date, discarded and forgotten, and what effect that has on someone’s psyche. They highlight how women are told time and time again they have to use everything they have to get ahead, but are held back from opportunities. They expose the way that women are subtly pushed into competitive comparison, and how others profit from it.
Ultimately, Torn Hearts delivers a scrappy, sassy, rootin’ tootin’ horror, but with a nuanced edge that breaks onto center stage for the film’s climax. The playful combination of music, madness, and message demand a place in the spotlight, and it’s a catchy new tune for women in horror. Blumhouse Television and Epix’s straight-to-streaming horror films have set a new standard.
You can watch Torn Hearts now on digital! Check out the trailer and poster below, and click here for our interview with director Brea Grant.