30th Jul2019

Fantasia 2019: ‘Culture Shock’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Shawn Ashmore, Richard Cabral, Martha Higareda, Creed Barton, Barbara Crampton, Felipe de Lara, Oscar Camacho, Laura Ceron | Written by Gigi Saul Guerrero, Efrén Hernández, James Benson | Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero

culture-shock-art

A movie (well feature length TV episode to be exact) about a pregnant woman from Mexico illegally crossing the border to America for a better life is going to be more relevant and current now than it ever will be…

The horror anthology show Culture Shock is from is called Into The Dark from Blumhouse Productions and as far as I can tell hasn’t yet been showed or released on any format in the U.K. Which is a big shame because it sounds great.

Wanting to leave the country you were born in illegally because things there are that awful and you would like a better life somewhere else is something I can’t imagine. And the Mexico/America border is not even close to being the only place in the world where immigrants will attempt to illegally cross. This issue is widespread, perhaps in Europe more than anywhere. Culture Shock does a good job early on to explain why the lead character Marisol (Martha Higareda – also seen in recent Shudder hit Deadtectives) needs to do this.

After a treacherous and depressing attempt at crossing the border, Marisol is caught by officials and then kind of blacks out, only to wake up in this perfect American town, with her baby born and living in a house also occupied by Betty (played by the always brilliant Barbara Crampton) who is looking after them both. But as this is a horror show, things aren’t quite as idyllic as they seem on the surface and Marisol doesn’t take long to realise this.

The opening thirty minutes or so, set in Mexico and that side of the border are dark and dreary. What is happening is bleak and the colours on screen show that. But when the immigrants arrive in America the sun has suddenly appeared, brighter than ever and the screen fills with vibrant colour. From the trees lining the streets to the clothes people are wearing to all of the celebratory items on display for the upcoming July 4th party.

Something else that stuck out for me in Culture Shock was the sound design. For those who suffer from Misophonia or those like me who absolutely hates the sound of people eating loudly, Culture Shock will drive you crazy. There’s a couple of scenes where I wanted to throw something at the TV and it’s clearly a deliberate thing by the creators of this but I’m not sure it was always a good decision!

Horror fans might be wondering how this exactly fits into the genre. Now, I don’t want to give much away but there is the occasional moment of pretty extreme violence that involves plenty of blood. There’s also an underlying creepy atmosphere – often from Crampton’s character – that is there throughout.

As a fan of The Office, it’s always good to see it’s cast in different things, here Creed Barton plays a character that isn’t really anything like that shows one, and although his performance is a bit up and down it was good to see him here. Another familiar face comes in the form of Shawn Ashmore who has starred in the X-Men franchise and Adam Green’s Frozen. But the best performance does indeed come from the lead Martha Higareda, who is brilliant from the first minute to the last.

Playing out like an episode of Black Mirror, Culture Shock is both current and horrifying for the same reasons. Making something that is terrifying, even more so. Hopefully soon I will be able to check out the rest of the show.

**** 4/5

Culture Shock screened as part of the 2019 Fantasia Internation FIlm Festival on Thursday July 25th 2019.

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