★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Brea Grant
Horror icon Brea Grant delivers a great-looking film with one cowboy-boot–wearing foot in modern gothic horror territory and the other in slasher-style fare, loading Nashville music scene chiller Torn Hearts with commentary on the price of fame.
All hail Katey Sagal, who gives a tour de force performance in Torn Hearts, a horror thriller set in the competitive Nashville country music scene. Director Brea Grant knows her way around horror on both sides of the camera, and this, her feature film follow-up at the helm to 12 Hour Shift, is a heck of a great time.
Sagal plays country music legend Harper Dutch, who has been living like a hermit for years since her sister — together they made up the popular The Duchess Sisters duo — committed suicide.
Leigh (Alexxis Lemire) and Jordan (Abby Quinn) are the country duo Torn Hearts, looking for their big break. The pair are fans of Harper — especially megafan Leigh — and when they learn Dutch’s address and pay her a surprise visit, what starts out as an uneasy initial conversation turns into a chance to record a comeback record with Harper. It’s obvious from the beginning that something is off with Harper, though, and Torn Hearts’ members find themselves on the receiving end of Harper’s increasingly creepy behavior.
Rachel Koller Croft’s screenplay takes a deep dive into the examination of fame and the price that some will go to achieve it, and what can happen when fame and the desire for it goes to people’s heads. The complexities of relationships between sisters and friends who feel as close as sisters is also put under a cinematic microscope here, leaving viewers with plenty to chew on to accompany the blood-soaked horror proceedings.
Grant invests the film with eye-popping color — including loads of pink — and a nice array of music — when original songs written by Brittany Allen aren’t being featured, there’s plenty of nerve-wracking score on hand. Grant does a super job of ratcheting up the suspense after giving engaging introductions to the three main characters.
The performances from Sagal, Lemire, and Quinn are all top-notch. Sagal owns the film, but Lemire and Quinn do a fine job of hanging right there with her, the former as an awe-struck singer who wants to be a star and the latter as the member of the duo who would be happy just writing quality music rather than selling out. Harper plays on the differences between Leigh and Jordan in increasingly devious and dangerous ways, giving Sagal a wonderfully wicked character that she is obviously having a ball playing.
Review by Joseph Perry
Blumhouse Television and EPIX presents Torn Hearts on Paramount Home Entertainment digital from May 20, 2022.