Hulu’s Into the Dark: Culture Shock

This review is going to be a little different from our usual ones, as I can’t approach it from a film school graduate’s point of view. I mean, I can, but this was more than just another film. This was an experience akin to Do the Right Thing or more recently Get Out. The words to describe and analyze it are too difficult to put into mere cinematic terms. Also, this will be difficult for me to review without having some sort of bias towards the commentary presented in the film, as I can personally relate to it on a few levels.

Into the Dark: Culture Shock is a film by Mexican director and actress Gigi Saul Guerrero and is the story of Marisol, a pregnant woman (played by Martha Higareda) who is trying to cross the US border illegally to provide a better life for her and her unborn child. Minor spoiler: she gets caught as she crosses, and then passes out during the commotion. When she wakes up, she is now in America, living in a picturesque home straight out of the 50’s and dressed like the “perfect little housewife” that populated so many ideals of that era. She is also no longer pregnant, and her newborn child is being heavily watched-over by the mysterious owner of the house.

As Marisol fully awakens, she is introduced to the rest of the town: a total “Gee whiz, isn’t everything great!” portrait of perfect Americana, full of people that dress, act and even smile the same. Within the town we meet official-spokesperson Thomas as he manages the upcoming July 4th celebration. Thomas is friendly and welcoming, enthusiastically volunteering to help Marisol make sense of her brand-new & wonderful American life.

As the days proceed, Marisol doesn’t feel right and starts to raise questions, much to the dismay of the town’s hive-mind. Is all of this real? Or is she going crazy with paranoia?

That is where I’ll stop giving you any more plot information, because anything else would just be a major spoiler.

However, let’s talk about subtext. Marisol’s story is the story of countless immigrants and the movie does its best to present that struggle in the most human way possible. I say human because, well, immigrants, however they get to their desired destinations, are absolutely that. They’re humans like me and like you. As a son of Mexican immigrants myself, I sympathize with their dream. Many people (including our current President’s administration) tend to think of immigrants (especially the undocumented ones) as these evil, hand-wringing super-villains, intent on stealing all of our menial, ego-depleted, low-paying jobs and to take advantage of our already-broken welfare system.

The film also presents the most billboard-friendly version of America: streets so clean, even the thought of dirt is repulsive. Billy can safely play outside at night, any average Joe can own a piece of the apple pie, and the only worry Mom has is not missing her hair appointment.

But that isn’t the real America. For every golden opportunity, there’s a corroded flaw lurking beneath it. Please note that I’m not going to start trashing my native country, I’m just providing an objective point of view. There is a pro and con to every situation, and we can’t just put blinders on thinking that everything is wonderful. The movie shows that toxic-positivity as a pastel sweater wrapped in an American flag.

I’ve had relatives come to live here, hypnotized by that “promised land” idea, only to find themselves struggling just as much here as in Mexico, and then deciding to return after discovering the grass can be just as dry here as it is back home.

The last thing I’ll mention is the horror aspect. Many people scoff at horror, forever seeing it as a collage of gruesome killers and naked women. But the best horror movies are some of the most intelligent movies you’ll find, as they’re able to create a horrifying situation as a metaphor for current events, as horror icons like George Romero popularized in films like “Dawn of the Dead”.

I’ll end by saying this: There hasn’t been a movie that has resonated with me and made me think this much since 2017’s thriller Get Out. That movie played with my brain in a positive way by making me think hard about America’s history with race as well as the complete appropriation of cultures that seems to be a part of our future. Culture Shock made me think hard about my heritage, about my Parents (and many other immigrants) being mistreated for operating outside of that hive-mind while still being expected to buy into it.

A final thought: America portrays itself as the “Instagram Model” of countries. Everything is great! Just drink the sponsored tea and you’ll be just fine.
(insert wide grin here)

Into the Dark: Culture Shock is available on Hulu.

Jose Zuazua is editor-in-chief of Quick Lunch Break Reviews. He has an associates degree in film production & is the host of the A Little Drive Podcast. He’s on Twitter & Instagram.

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