Culture Shock, co-written and directed by Mexican filmmaker Gigi Saul Guerrero and produced by Blumhouse, is the production company’s most political film since Get Out. The tenth entry in Hulu’s Into the Dark feature-length anthology series, Culture Shock is about a pregnant Mexican woman who crosses the American border illegally with the hope of finding the American Dream, only to discover that it is more of a nightmare.
The concept behind this movie is difficult to describe without going into spoilers, but it can best be described as doing for immigration what Get Out did for racism. The film begins following a group of Mexican immigrants who are attempting to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border in one of the grittiest and darkest cold opens in quite a long time. Then, the movie transitions into its more psychologically-driven elements in a way that is mostly effective.
If there is a problem with this film, it would be that it is almost too ambitious. The movie attempts to handle a ton of issues that relate to immigration, including mistreatment by the American government, the fantasy of the American Dream, and the overwhelmingly consumerist nature of American society. However, since the film is trying to tackle all of these issues at once, it isn’t necessarily able to handle them all with as much depth as they deserve.
The character development is extremely effective. Although it would be impossible for anyone to come close to even imagining the suffering that the characters must be going through, the film does a great job of making their stories accessible to privileged audiences. Sure, this does ultimately require some sanitization, but Guerrero’s positive intentions are obvious and go a long way.
Martha Higareda does an excellent job in her role as the protagonist. Her performance is full of nuance and emotion, and adds a necessary element of realism to the movie given its satirical treatment of the subject matter. She is complemented by an excellent supporting cast including Shawn Ashmore and Creed Bratton, who give the film some of its wackier qualities.
The movie is also able to build suspense in a very impressive way. The first thirty or so minutes play out more like an action-thriller than a typical horror film, and Guerrero did a very good job of mimicking the sense of fear that immigrants would feel as they attempt to cross the border. The rest of the movie, while slightly comedic in nature, is still quite suspenseful at times, particularly when the film explores the psychology of the protagonist with more depth.
On a technical level, the movie was mostly impressive. Although the film does show its budget a few times, the end result still feels very professional and effective. The production design, for instance, is very good, especially in the sequences set in the American “utopia”. The use of color, both in the set design and costuming, is juxtaposed well with the darker tone of the writing.
Culture Shock is so good that one can’t help but wonder why it didn’t receive a theatrical release. It is, in many ways, Blumhouse’s most effective and ambitious movie in quite a while, so it is absolutely worth your time to check it out on Hulu. Take a bit of time off this Independence Day to watch some social horror.
Culture Shock debuts on Hulu on July 4.