When one first hears the concept of a country music horror movie, whatever one has envisioned is surely not what one will get. In the best way imaginable, I can almost guarantee that Torn Hearts is not interested in delivering as tired or basic of a concept as one would expect. Superstar Katey Sagal shines as sassy, disheveled retired star Harper, one-half of a famous singing-sisters duo that were once dubbed “best new artist” in 1993. Of course, this being a Blumhouse production, the pink facade of Harper’s elegant decaying mansion hides a horrifying secret. Candy-colored aesthetics and a whip-smart musicality paint Torn Hearts as horror with soul.
The two-woman duo of Torn Hearts consists of sweet and ambitious Leigh (Alexxis Lemire) and cynical but passionate Jordan (Abby Quinn). Despite having a great time when onstage with one another, Torn Hearts isn’t exactly selling out stadiums. A greasy and aggressive music producer (Joshua Leonard, The Blair Witch Project) makes them an offer that seems to good to be true: tour with mega star Caleb (Shiloh Fernandez, Evil Dead, Deadgirl) as his opener. It is a deal he’s been trying to finalize for months, and he finally manages to drag Caleb along to see Torn Hearts live in concert. With their professional relationship seemingly a done deal, Caleb and Jordan have sex before he breaks the news that “the studio wants an all-male tour.” However, the highlight of their little tryst is a framed photo of Caleb meeting Leigh’s idol, Harper Dutchess! Jordan demands the location of Harper’s home, as it could potentially give the girls the big break they need!
It turns out that Caleb was supposed to do a duet with Harper, but their collaboration fell through. Jordan manages to wrangle a general location, then convinces Leigh to come along with her for the ride. A bright pink mailbox gives away the hidden spot with little effort. When the duo convinces Harper into buzzing them in from behind a massive pink gate, the vibe instantly becomes intense. Meeting their idol should be a thing of beauty; instead Harper comes off abrasive and confrontational. She appears a wise old drunkard well past her prime. Clearly, Harper isn’t exactly used to company. It takes everything to convince her to agree about recording a song together. Filled with ideas, Harper agrees to the terms—it doesn’t take long for things to get weird. Pinks guns, questionable jars, and notebooks filled with song lyrics, oh my!
How far would one to go to pursue their dreams? This very question is one both Leigh and Jordan are forced to ask as their time at the mansion grows stranger by the second. Harper pits the women against one another, like a warped version of band therapy. Harper talks about her deceased sister with a sense of eerie melancholy. Leigh and Jordan wake up in classic band tees, told they took things too far with whiskey the previous night. Neither of them recalls changing, but Harper insists they stay to record. When the time finally arrives for them to lay the track, the three women’s voices sound beautiful together. “I’m gonna die with your name on my lips” is a powerful lyric no matter how you spin it. Creepy mannequins with old Dutchess Sisters touring costumes are adorned in various rooms of the sprawling home.
Once the horror angle kicks in, Torn Hearts is even more fun. The ending is crazy-dark, with a shocking sequence that reminded me of a meta Scream-reveal. All three women at the center (especially Katey) give powerful performances reflective of their overall skills as performers. I am admittedly not crazy about country music, so I was utterly shocked that I enjoyed Torn Hearts to this extent. It focuses first on character, which allows a connection well before the gory mayhem ensues. A script from Rachel Koller Croft and direction from the incredible Brea Grant ensures Torn Hearts holds a uniquely female perspective from top to bottom. For a signature blend of horror thrills, look no further.
Torn Hearts blasts pink everywhere when it debuts on Digital starting Friday, May 20th from EPIX and Blumhouse Television.