With apologies to Katey Sagal, who by no means embodies the stereotype, the brand new Blumhouse/Epix thriller “Torn Hearts” brings the “hagsploitation” image again onto the B-movie stage. Epitomized by “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”—a movie whose effect hovers within the background of “Torn Hearts” like so many mannequins in crumbling stage costumes—“nunsploitation” leverages a well-known middle-aged actress’ star energy for a horror movie in regards to the grotesque nature of getting old. Within the higher examples, the stated stars flip into the psycho-biddy territory and additionally serves as a form of meta-narrative about Hollywood’s (or, in this case, Nashville’s) callous remedy of ladies normally.
“Torn Hearts” takes place inside Nashville’s nation music scene, a novel setting for a horror film that additionally supplies ample alternatives for social commentary. Written by newcomer Rachel Koller Croft and helmed by actor-turned-director Brea Grant, “Torn Hearts” simply passes the Bechdel take a look. The movie’s male characters are peripheral and largely irrelevant, necessary solely by way of fueling the battle between the feminine leads. That being stated, “Torn Hearts” is much less explicitly feminist than final yr’s “Lucky,” co-written by Grant and director Natasha Kermani.
Alexxis Lemire and Abby Quinn star as Leigh and Jordan, the lead singer and songwriter, respectively, of rising Nashville duo Torn Hearts. Because the movie opens, the pair is angling for a spot opening for a caddish pop-country singer who waits till after he and Jordan hook as much as inform her that the label has opted for an “all-guys tour,” and Torn Hearts isn’t invited. Fed up with the boys’ membership, Jordan talks Leigh into ditching a recording session arranged by Leigh’s also-caddish boyfriend/supervisor Ritchie (Joshua Leonard). As an alternative, she means that they observe down their idol, reclusive nation legend Harper Dutch (Sagal), and in some way persuade her to file a tune with them.
Utilizing intel obtained from the aforementioned cads, Leigh and Jordan discover Harper tucked away on the finish of an outdated filth highway behind a pink mailbox and a wrought-iron gate overgrown with weeds. With hopeful hearts and a captivating sense of naivete, they ring the buzzer and ask: Would Harper be keen to provide them some recommendations on making it as a girl in a person’s world? The gate swings open, locking with a loud click behind them. Leigh and Jordan have an ulterior motive for his or her go to, and Harper has an ulterior motive for letting them in. Each shall be revealed, in a vicious, booze-fueled inventive and private reckoning draped in sequins and tooled leather-based.
“Torn Hearts” comes from Blumhouse’s extra modestly budgeted TV division, a drawback that reveals largely within the underwhelming SFX makeups. The manufacturing design, in the meantime, makes up for its budgetary limitations with a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek redneck glamor: Harper’s dusty mansion—which doubles as a tomb for her sister/bandmate Hope, the Dolly to Harper’s Emmylou—is dotted with farcical particulars, like Hope’s Fuschia urn and the ‘90s-style portraits of Hope and Harper that dominate nearly every room. But while the big hair and pasted-on Tennessee accents are delicious, they serve mostly as a backdrop for the more grounded drama between Jordan and Leigh as they struggle to overcome their differences and survive Harper’s violent, delusional scheme.
Truthfully, probably the most disappointing factor about “Torn Hearts” is that it doesn’t absolutely embrace its campy potential. In comparison with the setting, the performances are restrained, and Sagal specifically stays naturalistic even when the script goes excessive. And given the potential for mockery inherent within the “hagsploitation” system, it is sensible that Grant didn’t wish to flip her actors into caricatures (if, certainly, that’s the explanation for the disconnect). However then why have eyeballs floating in jars filled with fluid that is the color of cotton sweet, and Sagal proclaiming that she’s bought “the right accessory for any outfit” proper earlier than she grabs a hot-pink shotgun from her wallpapered closet?
If “Torn Hearts” had pushed itself a little bit tougher, it might have ascended into camp heaven, and possibly develop into a cult basic. Because it stands, it’s an unapologetically high-femme distraction that’s higher than your common Lifetime thriller. Certain, it’s bought its clunky bits, however, these solely make it higher suited to an evening on the sofa with sweatpants and a few rosés.