- “Torn Hearts” debuted on streaming services last month.
- Nashville-based horror giant Blumhouse TV produced the movie Music Row.
A country music…horror film? Yes, that’s one thing.
“Torn Hearts” – a bloody 97-minute thriller from Epix and Hollywood fear factory Blumhouse – takes viewers to a fictional Nashville, where a duo of bright-eyed women hoping to make a splash on Music Row needs a boost in an industry dominated by men who tell tales of back roads and beer drinking (sound familiar, huh?).
The band – called Torn Hearts – features Jordan, a curly-haired songwriter who puts art above fame (she would like totally being from East Nashville) and Leigh, the singer with the piercing smile and superstar ambitions (Midtown all the way for her, right?).
Seeking to get the group out of mid-sized local clubs, they try to enlist the help of Harper Dutch, a star-turned-recluse who once ruled the charts (and ’90s country hairstyles) as one half of the family duo. The Dutchess Sisters. The duo take a trip to the back streets of Tennessee to surprise Dutch at his ruined estate.
Spoiler alert: Suspense revealed.
“Torn Hearts” hit streaming services last month to mostly positive reviews in horror circles, earning an 89% “Certified Fresh” score on review aggregator and movie likemaker Rotten Tomatoes.
In an interview with The Tennessean, “Torn Hearts” screenwriter Rachel Koller Croft talks about directing the film in Nashville, writing complex women in horror, and the film’s original score.
Wait, why Nashville?
Croft grew up on country music with a self-proclaimed appreciation that ranges from Dolly Parton to Jake Owen.
A Midwesterner who now lives in Los Angeles, she filled her 20s with weekends in Music City that included honky-tonk hops, songwriting tours and open mic sessions. During these trips, Croft said she loves watching three-chord stories of songwriters.
For “Torn Hearts,” she combined her Nashville background with horror, comic relief, and layered characters.
“What I love about country music,” Croft said, “is people telling stories. It’s something I’ve always loved doing, whether I’m writing a song or a screenplay or a book. And I think of all genres of music…country music tells the most compelling story. I’ve always been drawn to that.”
She is not afraid of problems
Women in country music continue to fight an uphill battle to gain traction on radio and on the road compared to their male counterparts. From Leigh dating a manager old enough to be her father to Jordan struggling to come to terms with the band losing a touring slot to the man, Croft doesn’t cut corners illustrating those struggles.
“It’s no secret that the entertainment industry as a whole, including music, is notoriously tough on women,” Croft said, adding, “I wanted to [the women] be the center of attention. The men in the story have their moment in the sun, so to speak, but this is the story of the women. And they go there. I didn’t want to write passive characters. I wanted to write about women who make great swings.”
And she wrote characters with depth
Horror fans don’t often see a movie led by three nuanced women like “Torn Hearts.” The layers of Leigh (played by Alexxis Lemire), Jordan (Abby Quinn) and Harper Dutch (Katey Sagal) unfold as the film progresses, providing insight into what drives each plot twist – for for better or for worse.
None are perhaps more compelling than Dutch, which Sagal plays with offbeat grit fueled by the untimely death of the character’s sister, Hope Dutch.
“I think Harper feels rejected and betrayed by something and some people that she loved very much,” Croft said. “Her motivation when she sees these girls is a mix of wanting to help but also helping herself.”
The songs are also by Croft
The lyrics Croft penned — including a song she started writing years ago on her weekends in Nashville — made the film into fully produced songs performed by Torn Hearts and Harper Dutch.
Write the film and contribute to the soundtrack? A pretty cool punch, Croft said.
“The songs are all owned by the artists in the story and their production totally reflects that,” she said, adding, “I was really thrilled that Brea [Grant, director] and the producers [in] Nashville captured the essence of what the songs were meant to do for the characters and the story.”