Sometime in the mid-eighties, Hammer Films produced an anthology called Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense. It wasn’t too different from the more famous Hammer House of Horror, but its stories were generally somewhat more grounded, centering on psychological horror instead of Dracula and his ilk. I always enjoyed the show, short as its existence may have been.
Which is a roundabout way to say that Torn Hearts, Brea Grant’s latest, would have fit wonderfully into Hammer’s oeuvre.
Jordan (Abby Quinn) and Leigh (Alexxis Lemire) have formed a country duo with negligible success, reduced to mostly performing at roadhouse gigs. The band is not deterred; they aspire to emulate their biggest influence, the now-disbanded Dutch sisters. That duo’s younger sibling, Hope, committed suicide, leaving older sister Harper (Katey Sagal) retired in seclusion at a dilapidated mansion.
Jordan and Leigh track down Harper, who at first is standoffish, but soon agrees to record with them. Or at least seemingly so—or is her goal more nefarious? Spoiler alert: It is.
Also, a spoiler alert: I really like this movie.
Torn Hearts is an intimate film: It features a small cast isolated in one location, leaving your mind to fill in the blanks of the greater storyline. There are (mercifully) no exposition dumps but rather a steady drip of a backstory.
The overarching plot, too, is built on a similarly intimate foundation. Sibling rivalry; passive-aggressive feuds; conniving friends. Those familiar themes make for a dark backdrop for a tense thriller. How far would one go to achieve success? Harper feels she knows, and she happily uses Jordan and Leigh as guinea pigs to prove her point.
Both Quinn and Lemire put in good efforts, but from an acting standpoint, Sagal is the star of the show. Harper vacillates between charming and unhinged, and while her secret is predictable, Sagal manages to keep it chillingly fascinating.
One Star Classics mainstay Brea Grant shoots the film well, sometimes with claustrophobic scenes, other times with swooping camera work. Torn Hearts is a stylish movie by most definitions, and it’s an excellent film for anyone interested in the darker sides of the music industry.
If you did catch Hammer House of Horror, Torn Hearts isn’t unlike the
Black Carrion episode, one of my favorites in the series. Torn Hearts is better produced, mind you, and the entertainment factor is higher. It’s tense but not too creepy, and Sagal is on fire.
So far, it’s one of my favorite thrillers of the year.
Letterboxd summary: A promising up-and-coming country duo seek out the secluded mansion of their idol Harper Dutch, a former country music star and Nashville royalty turned recluse. What starts out as a friendly visit devolves into a twisted series of horrors forcing the friends to confront the lengths they will go to in pursuit of their dreams.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||4/6|