The Into the Dark series on Hulu gets political with its latest entry Culture Shock. A Fourth of July themed movie that touches on the situation at the border.
It didn’t happen intentionally but I’ve ended up slowly picking off entries in the Hulu-Blumhouse collaboration Into the Dark. Over the past 10 months Hulu has released a holiday themed horror movie each month. This month’s entry, titled Culture Shock, was centered around the 4th of July. However, this isn’t just an Independence Day gathering gone wrong. The series took a big risk by telling the story through the eyes of a young woman who is trying to immigrate to the U.S. through Mexico.
The reviews for the movie thus far appear to be very polarized. Many of the reviews seem to focus on the message. Either you loved that they made a political statement or you didn’t. My feelings on this are mixed. On one hand, I appreciated how they showed the difficulty of the journey into America and how shady coyotes can be. The movie takes a dramatic shift about 1/3 of the way in and takes a while to get to its point from there. I’ll get into all of that in a bit .
Culture Shock at points is hard to follow. It’s starts out confusing, then becomes clear, then takes a surprising hard turn. For a while in the middle you will be very lost. I almost gave up on it during this period but when the reveal came I understood what was happening. Overall, I liked the idea by the end, just think it could have been executed differently.
As I mentioned above, Culture Shock follows a young woman who is trying to get to America through Mexico. The main character, Marisol, is played by Martha Higareda (Queen of the South) and when we meet her she has already made one attempt to cross. Things went badly for her, not only did she not make it across the border but she was attacked by someone she trusted. She’s looking for a second chance to make the trip and goes back to the coyote who left her behind before. Things happen during the trip and their crossing doesn’t go cleanly and then the movie takes a turn. I don’t really want to go into detail but the entire movies shifts both visually and in tone for a while.
While in Mexico, Marisol and everyone else speaks Spanish but after she is stopped at the border and we see her again she is speaking perfect English. Culture Shock does the job of showing some of the situations that lead people to flee, as well as the attitudes that some Americans display toward immigrants from south of the border.
Great Idea, Questionable Execution
The part of the story that I am doing my best not to discuss is brilliant. As a writer myself I can’t help but to think about what I might have done differently. I believe that the writer/director wanted a twist that I’m not sure was necessary. I think we could have been given the answer at the front end and still have enjoyed the way it went down. As it stands, I was confused and frustrated for a good 15-20 minutes and almost gave up on the movie because it became really weird. Once we get our reveal I was actually impressed with the idea and could imagine us getting to a situation like that. Not exactly the way it was shown of course but something similar. (I know this means nothing to you right now, I’ll put the answer in the P.S. if you really need to know.)
I do question the message at the end also. After the main action of the movie resolves itself Marisol and her fellow travelers have to make a decision. One of those travelers named Santo, who is played by Richard Cabral (American Crime), has gotten close to Marisol over the course of the movie. At the end, they each make a different decision and I didn’t understand hers fully. Even if I do accept why she made her decision, I’m not sure what the intended message was in having her go that route.
While I didn’t enjoy the roller coaster ride that Culture Shock took me on, other seem to. Most of the negative reviews are from people who disagreed with the political angle and most of the positive come from people who agree. I don’t think the story is that straightforward, mostly because of those decisions at the end. I can see conservative viewers being put off by the conversation as a whole. Essentially, that America doesn’t want people coming in from these countries. There is one character who says this very literally. Conservative viewers likely feel like the way this character speaks is too literal and that’s not how anyone really feels. We’ll have to agree to disagree. People may not explicitly say that in public, but they definitely do behind closed doors. Anyway I’ve gotten off track.
The movie was too uneven for me but I liked the idea and can’t completely kill it. My least favorite of the three entries I’ve watched thus far in the Into the Dark series.
***Super spoilers below this point***
P.S.: Essentially after she reaches the border she’s put in a virtual environment that is supposed to simulate life in America but it looks like life in the 50’s. They don’t make this clear for way too long.