Cinema Scholars interviews Brea Grant, director of Blumhouse Television and EPIX’s latest horror/suspense film Torn Hearts. The film stars Abby Quinn, Alexxis Lemire, and Katey Sagal. Paramount Home Entertainment will release the film On Digital on May 20, 2022.
Horror hounds know the well-worn tropes of their favorite genre. From classic tales of hauntings or monsters to psychological horror and torture porn, most forays into various subsets tend to follow a certain formula. When a film manages to transcend the stereotypes of its subcategory and further heighten the game, genre gold is struck. In the new suspense/horror film Torn Hearts, director Brea Grant gives the “house of horrors” trope a dazzling makeover with some gory girly goodness.
The opening sequence of Torn Hearts begins with a throwback interview of fictional country/pop sensation The Dutchess Sisters hot off their big win for Best New Artist. Soon, however, it is revealed that their meteoric success ended in tragedy when one of the sisters lost her life. Flash forward to the present day when Jordan (Abby Quinn) and Leigh (Alexxis Lemire) of the singing duo Torn Hearts, are clawing their way up the Nashville music scene.
When one of the gals gets an “in” with their idol, Harper Dutch (Katey Sagal) of the Dutchess Sisters, they decide to approach the legend at her home with hopes of a collaboration. Much to their astonishment, the singer agrees to meet with them at her decaying country estate. After a shaky start and a whirlwind booze-soaked night of bonding, the women discover that their hero has a different, much darker idea about teaming up.
Torn Hearts is a refreshingly original take on a proven formula. While staying true to the genre, the film pokes holes in typical tropes while also poking fun at 90s pop-country mania. Instead of cobweb-covered antiques, Dutch’s haunted mansion features an array of mannequins clad in elaborately sequined costumes from the performer’s heyday. And not one, but two of the most intense scenes from the film feature incredible musical performances that amp up the suspense.
In many recent horror films of a similar caliber, the veteran talent only appears in brief interludes throughout the picture. However, in Torn Hearts, Katey Sagal holds down the fort for a majority of the mayhem as the jaded surviving Dutchess sister. Sagal gets the rare chance to show off some on-point dramatics while also wow-ing with her amazing singing voice. As the ambitious wannabes, Quinn and Lemire also dazzle in the double-threat department. Pulling off this kind of story is tough, much less without having to sing. But the exciting dynamic between the three actresses paired with the bonus of multi-faceted talent makes the campy backstory work.
Torn Hearts doesn’t shy away from the splatter either. For those who are tired of suspenseful horror that builds to only a meager payoff, rest assured that Torn Hearts goes for some surprisingly gory gags along with the psychodrama. Cinema Scholar Rebecca Elliott recently chatted with Torn Hearts director Brea Grant. Grant opens up about ingrained country fandom, coming into the Blumhouse fold, and collaborating with a veteran actress.
I appreciate you talking to me about your new film. So Torn Hearts, oh my gosh, so fun and… Well, fun is kind of a weird way to say it. But it is twisted and fun. It’s about a fictional country superstar duo. It kind of pokes fun a little bit at the genre, but it’s also a twisted love letter as well. I have to know, are you a fan of country music, and what brought you to this story? How’d you find Torn Hearts and what made you want to make this movie?
Yeah. I’m from Texas. You’re handed a Garth Brook CD when you’re born. My dad loved old country when I was growing up and my mom liked new country when it went a little pop in the 90s, like Reba McEntire and of it all. So, I did grow up with that kind of stuff, and I liked it when I was a kid. Then, I got into punk rock and that pretty much changed everything. But, then I found myself as an adult going back around to it and listening to some of that stuff. Particularly like older country. Dolly, Loretta Lynn, things like that. I find that really inspiring and also like kind of creepy. There’s something about those songs that are kind of weird and creepy, and I just really dig them.
How did this movie come to me? I had talked to Blumhouse at some point, I really wanted to work with them, I think they do amazing work over there. And I told them, I had released this movie, 12 Hour Shift that I directed. It went to Tribeca [film festival] in 2020 and we talked after that. And I was like, “I love Southern stuff. Stuff that’s kind of fun. Outside of the box kind of stuff. And I love working with women who aren’t like your traditional 20-year-old stars. Not the ingenue. I want a woman who’s been in the industry for a while.” And they somehow found a script that had all of it, and they sent it to me and I was like, “Oh my God, yes, I have to pitch on this and tell you what I would do,” and it felt so natural to try to make this movie. I was telling them everything I was excited about, all the themes and it just felt like a great fit. And I was down prepping in New Orleans within a month.
Oh wow. What a dream. You also got the dream star with Katey Sagal, who obviously has incredible acting chops, to begin with. But then she has this amazing singing voice! I guess I was in a cave somewhere because I didn’t know that she was this incredible singer. Can you talk about working with her and her dynamic with the other actresses, Abby Quinn and Alexxis Lemire?
Yeah. I mean, she’s amazing. She’s a singer. She has a whole singing career outside of acting. There’s this massive acting career and then also a massive singing career on top of that, which is not fair to have someone with so much talent. It’s completely unfair to the rest of us. You need to share that talent around. But yeah, she was on my list from the beginning. I just thought she’d be great because she could sing. We’ve seen her do all sorts of stuff, we know her from dramas, we know her from comedies. She has actually never done horror movies. So we were very interested in having her do a horror movie, and I thought that hopefully would be a selling point. And it was! I wrote her a nice letter and she came out to do it. And the dynamic between them was great.
The other actresses, Abby and Alexxis, came to New Orleans early, and we were able to do some rehearsals, which is wonderful. I actually shot with them for a week before Katey could come. So, we shot everything that didn’t involve Katey, basically until Katey got there. Then we shot with Katey and it was wonderful because she’s such a well-established actress. She knows what she’s doing. When she comes to set, she’s prepared, has a lot of questions, and really wants to get into the character stuff. And Abby and Alexxis loved that too because it just made it really fun that she was super open and wanted to talk to them. She wanted to play around with the scenes. It was great.
Sounds like so much fun. So, there are some amazing songs in Torn Hearts too, with equally amazing and curious titles. Let’s see, there’s “Sit Your Ass Down, Cause I’m Taking The Truck.” I love that one. And, “It’s Hard Out There For A Good Time Girl” and of course the classic, “Highs And Lows.” Can you talk about the songs? Did the songs already exist? Did they come after the script? Can you talk about the songwriting and who you guys worked with on that? Because some of those songs like “Taking The Truck” are legit hits.
It’s a total banger! Yeah. Rachel [Koller Croft], who wrote the script, wrote the lyrics to the song.
All the lyrics to the songs were included in the back of the script. So when we started, we took those lyrics to this producer in Nashville. And, he basically came up with the tunes of the songs. I sent him a whole bunch of stuff where I was like, “Okay, the Torn Hearts stuff, this needs to sound more like pop-country like Taylor swift almost. Whereas the Dutchess Sister stuff, that needs to be more like 90s country, like more throwback.” And we have that song “Go” at the end, which I wanted to sound kind of haunted, like super old school 50s country.
Right. Like an old traditional or something. Yeah.
Exactly, exactly. And, he was down and he basically wrote all these songs. We went back and forth. We had a very truncated prep time. So he wrote them all within like a week, maybe. Maybe a week and a half. Then Abby and Alexxis flew down and recorded a couple of things because we needed them. We needed their recording for the live performance. Then a lot of stuff we recorded on the day of. When we recorded the song, “Go”, it was live. Abby, Alexxis, and Katey are all singing it at the same time. That’s them actually singing in the location, and we used that sound because they all sing really well. It was amazing.
Whoa! That is so lucky.
So, they all sing. Katey sings amazingly well. They came in and did the backups and we recorded it and I was like, “Oh my God, is this going to work? Am I going to be able to use this live?” And, we recorded it and I went over to my sound team and I was like, “That works, right? I’m going to be able to use that?” And they’re like, “Oh yeah, you’re going to be able to use that.” It was awesome. It’s great.
Amazing. So, there’s so much cool visual stuff, but you also utilize other details, like Harper’s finger tapping and all those creepy costumes around the house to help build and maintain the suspense throughout Torn Hearts. Can you talk about some of the tricks as a director you utilize to keep that tension building, and how much of that was already on the page in the script?
I mean, it all sort of builds. You have to go in and understand where it is in the script. Know what you need, where everyone is, and know that each scene has to have some sort of scary. Right? It has to have some sort of thing that’s going to push the story forward. The tapping, like where she’s tapping on the glass? Is that what you mean, yeah?
Yes. When Katey’s character taps on the table or door frame.
Katey came in with that as a character choice and started doing it. And I was like, “I’m going to shoot that just so you know,” and she was like, “Okay.” And so, then she started doing it in various places, and anytime I saw her do it, I’d be like, “I’m going to have to get an insert of that finger now.” And she was like, “Yeah, yeah, I know.” So, I felt that was a really great character choice to show her descent.
I think it’s just all about creating that atmosphere. It’s a very atmospheric movie in some ways. There’s not blood and guts on page 20. I had to build and it was sort of like they’re entering this world that gets weirder and weirder as it goes. Right? We talked about them entering the gates of Harper Dutch’s house, and that was like Through the Looking Glass, that was our Alice in Wonderland. They’ve gone to the other side. But things should progress as we went along. Like, they’re in the first room- that room is weird and dirty, but it’s not scary. But then, they go to the kitchen and the kitchen is actually kind of gross and you’re like, “Oh, maybe everything’s not right here.” But then you have time to think about it because now you’re in another room and that room also has its own strangeness… So, it’s like every room was supposed to progress as further and further into the belly of the beast, the belly of the horrific stuff that’s about to happen.
Well, it definitely worked. I had such a great time with Torn Hearts, but now I have to wrap it up. Again, I feel weird saying I had fun because it’s so dark, but it’s got all this…
It is fun. And I just love the feminine aesthetic within the horror genre and the costumes. I would love to go on about the costumes. So amazing.
They’re so good, right? The costume designer, Eulyn Hufkie, she’s amazing. She’s very good at her job.
She knocked herself out! Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I really appreciate it, and good luck with the rest of your interviews today.
Cool. Thank you, Rebecca.
The On Digital release of Torn Hearts hits Paramount Home Entertainment on May 20, 2022.
Read more Cinema Scholars interviews!
BIG GOLD BRICK: An Interview With Writer/Director Brian Petsos
An Interview With INFINITE STORM Star Billy Howle
Keep up with Cinema Scholars on social media. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
Source : https://cinemascholars.com/torn-hearts-director-brea-grant-talks-about-her-latest-horror-suspense-film/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=torn-hearts-director-brea-grant-talks-about-her-latest-horror-suspense-film