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Review: Gigi Saul Guerrero’s “CULTURE SHOCK”

Politics is one of the current hot topics in America. It’s been spurred by the previous presidential election and both sides of the nation fighting for what they believe is the right way to thrive as a country. One pressure point in the ongoing debate is border security and how to accommodate illegal immigrants seeking a safer homeland. It’s perhaps this debate alone that is dividing America, because true racism is climbing out of the hearts of millions people and kids in cages is failing to pull any moral response from news-watchers. As part of Blumhouse’s INTO THE DARK series, a new horror thriller titled Culture Shock is premiering exclusively on Hulu this July 4th. It’s a poignant release date for sure, while so many people are fighting for their freedom and human rights. In Culture Shock, a young pregnant woman flees an unhappy life in Mexico and travels with a caravan of people through the desert until she can cross into America. They’re intercepted by a group of murderous hunters, and after a blackout period, the soon-to-be mother awakens to find herself in a picture perfect suburb in The United States. Everyone she meets is hospitable and kind, and every lawn is manicured to look like the cover of a lifestyle magazine. Although it appears to be the dream she always wanted, the new resident in town starts to suspect that something sinister is lurking behind closed doors and the town’s higher-ups are hiding a dark secret.

Culture Shock is written and directed by Luchagore Entertainment’s Gigi Saul Guerrero. Efren Hernandez and James Benson also penned the script. Gigi has made waves in the horror film industry with previous titles including worldwide hit El Gigante, Bestia and original series “La Quinceañera.” Being of Hispanic decent and a woman, both groups who are frequent targets in political struggles, makes her the perfect person to take on the task of Culture Shock; not to mention her knack for unexpected twists and grizzly splatterfests. Dancing on the outskirts of horror, science fiction, action and real-world consequences, Gigi produced Culture Shock with Scott Ford and co-producers Alexander Koehne, Efren Hernandez and James Benson. Aided in this weird new world by cinematographer Byron Werner and editor John Quinn, Gigi and Blumhouse Television Production headed into principal photography for two weeks and tackled post-production in two months, and delivered a movie that makes it look creepy to be patriotic. That’s one of Culture Shock‘s biggest strengths, though. It turns border control into a horror story, while also becoming a thematic experience with metaphors of gluttony, materialistic nature and the notion that loving something so much that you turn a blind eye to its negative aspects is just as bad as being a part of the problem. A clever, clever story emerges in Culture Shock; heading to Hulu July 4th.

Culture Shock is even more bizarre version of The Stepford Wives, wrapped so tightly in suspense and inner turmoil that it forces you to bleed red, white and blue. I’m not sure what was more disturbing to me: the rape sequence in the beginning of the film or the fact that none of the characters break their smile for almost the entire movie. I love Barbara Crampton, but she pulls off the plastic, fake grin better than anyone else in this picture. Speaking of cast members, Culture Shock stars a plethora of television and horror film stars including Martha Higareda (“Queen of the South”), Richard Cabral (“Mayans MC”), Shawn Ashmore (“The Following”), Barbara Crampton (You’re Next, From Beyond), Felipe de Lara (“Lord of the Skies”), Creed Bratton (“The Office”), Laura Ceron (“Shameless”), Ian Inigo, Daniel Edward Mora (“The Bridge”) and Sal Lopez (Return of the Living Dead). As much as every single cast member turned in a showstopping performance, I automatically fall back to the complexity of the script and how little details made the whole thing cohesive and frightening. This can be seen in the way the main character Marisol (Higareda) stops speaking Spanish as soon as she’s transported to the new world. The film switches from subtitles to English, and it’s a plot device, yes, but it’s also a way of saying that people lose some of their culture when they move to a new country. How’s that for shocking!

With scifi mind control as a secondary antagonist, a bright and colorful world fueled by forceful goodness, a town perfectly transported back in time and tongue in cheek realizations, Culture Shock is more than a horror film – it’s a learning experience! There’s telling a story, then there’s bring a story to life so vividly that the audience feels drawn in to the drama. Culture Shock does that. It’s stark, dark, terrifying and thought provoking wrapped in a suburban disguise. Loved it. Final Score: 10 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)