Starring Martha Higareda, Richard Cabral, Shawn Ashmore and Barbara Crampton
Written by James Benson and Efrén Hernández
Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero
Blumhouse Productions and Hulu’s Into the Dark series does not shy away from social issues. Throughout the show, we have witnessed the effects of social media, sexism, mental illness, and trauma. In the July episode entitled Culture Shock, we dive into a political issue that has affected Mexico, America, and other countries for too long. Director Gigi Saul Guerrero brings us a film that feeds our heart and our horror needs, illuminating the fantasies and fears that can arrive for those chasing the American Dream.
In Culture Shock, we meet Marisol (Martha Higareda), a young, pregnant Mexican woman in pursuit of America. She works hard, saving up enough money to pay the shady tolls that promise the slimmest chance of reaching the United States. She crosses illegally, awakening to Betty (Barbara Crampton) in the midst of a colorful town with smiling faces and helpful hands. This dream, this America, which Marisol could never have imagined more perfectly, begins to unravel into a nightmare beyond anything she has ever faced.
The first half of the film reveals conditions in parts of Mexico, with characters speaking primarily in Spanish. Here, the film’s white balance is primarily amber, showing the dry and barren conditions of Marisol’s surroundings. But when Marisol makes it to what she believes to be the American Dream, English becomes the primary language, and the colors become vibrant and bold. The transition mesmerizes you.
Byron Werner, cinematographer for this production, has contributed to everything from videos for A Tribe Called Quest to Baby Einstein. Subsequently, in Culture Shock, when the dark, handheld shots in Mexico change to the stable, bright shots of this false America, Werner steps up with all of his previous experience and delivers exceptional work.
Beyond the horror, sneaking in through props and particularly through the visual effects, is a science fiction element. The film’s second half takes place in two worlds simultaneously. The tether between these worlds is a unique ripple effect accomplished by visual effects supervisor Damien Drago. He has contributed to Zombeavers, Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero, House of Cards and The Oath.
However, the overall attraction of this film rests on the actors’ shoulders. Martha Higareda, who stars as Marisol, has starred in Queen of the South and Netflix’s Altered Carbon. Barbara Crampton, who plays as sweet ol’ Betty, is practically horror royalty, with projects from Puppet Master, You’re Next, and Re-Animator. But one of my favorite characters in Culture Shock is Richard Cabral, whom many people recognize from Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and American Crime. In many of his roles, he plays the tough guy. In Culture Shock, he embodies this persona once again. However, in the second half of the film, he somehow transforms into a cotton sweater wearing guy you could bring home to your parents.
This film mirrors the turmoil happening today. It reimagines the yearn for the American Dream and turns it into something that Americans benefit from in a malevolent way. Attwood, played by Creed Bratton, explains the film in one perfect line: “We’re not paid to give them the American dream. We’re paid to keep them out of it.” With this, you can only imagine what real and unreal horror awaits you when you press play on this Hulu exclusive. Check it out today.
In addition to contributing to Dread Central, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific for over six years at RealQueenofHorror.com. She has always loved horror films and will soon be known directing her own feature-length horror. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LovelyZena.
Easily one of my favorite episodes of Into the Dark, Culture Shock is the kind of horror movie you’ll want to recommend to friends. It feeds our hearts and our horror needs, illuminating the fantasies and fears that can arrive for those chasing the American Dream.