Fantasia Review: Blumhouse's 'Culture Shock' Is a Very Real Horror Story Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero
Starring Martha Higareda, Richard Cabral, Barbara Crampton, Felipe de Lara, Shawn Ashmore, Ian Inigo
Published Aug 02, 2019The image of a Latina bound with rope; news reports about illegal activity at the border; images of American patriotism; a plea to end "American suffering" at the hands of migrants. Gigi Saul Guerrero's Culture Shock opens with images and words that are all too familiar in an America with a population that chants "Build That Wall" and an America that has children locked in cages and families separated.
This feature-length Latino horror story has been brought to the screen as part of Blumhouse's Hulu anthology series Into the Dark.
The horrors of America and the dangers of crossing the border are told through the perspective of Marisol (Martha Higareda). To her, America has always been a land of opportunity, and she's determined to reach it to give her unborn baby a better life. But those like her find out that attempting to cross is a horror in itself.
Those wishing to cross the border illegally often have to seek out the help of criminals, where women often risk being raped. And despite paying these criminals large sums of money, they could leave the dream seekers abandoned in the dead of night and vulnerable to being found by the cartel. All of this happens to Marisol, but it makes her even more determined to reach America.
The cartel is fast approaching, and she runs for her life. When she reaches the border, she passes out, only to wake up in a bedroom with pink curtains and bright yellow walls to match the new dress she's wearing. She's speaking English but doesn't know how, as she's never understood the language. She's welcomed by a woman named Betty (Barbara Crampton) who's holding Marisol's baby in her arms. To her, America has always been labelled as "super nice."
Yet the town she finds herself in is...too nice. Cape Joy is too perfect. Despite the town's inhabitants going out of their way to make her feel at home and wanting to include her in the 4th of July festivities, there's something sinister hiding behind their smiles. Smiles that seem forced. It's like The Truman Show or a Black Mirror episode where everything feels like a simulation; where speech and actions are pre-determined. "Nothing in this place makes sense," Marisol says. And while no one is chanting for a wall to be built and there are no ICE officers banging on their door, the truth behind this idyllic town is just as terrifying.
Higareda gives an affecting performance as Marisol, a migrant struggling to adapt to an alien culture. When she begins to see the delusion of the American dream, she is labelled as a "flight risk" because she doesn't think, act or speak like everyone else in a town that is seemingly being brainwashed. She's told that her resistance to adapt to the cultural expectations of her new home is called culture shock. The Mexican anthem becomes a source of comfort to her, as a representation of how harmful assimilation is.
The truth behind Cape Joy is the incredibly sick reality where migrants believe there is such a thing as the American dream, but it's a fantasy fed to the world through the media machine.
Named one of Variety's 10 Latinxs to watch, Guerrero's goal was to give Latinos a voice, particularly in the horror genre, and through the genre, their story is given a new platform. As a piece of entertainment, the story told isn't completely factual, but one that manages to hit the nail on the head in terms of portraying the horrors that are happening at the border.