Culture Shock: Interview with Gigi Saul Guerrero

In February 2016, Donald Trump gave a populist headline that universal alarmism acquired at the price of a balance: if he was elected president, as finally happened, the United States would build a wall on the border with Mexico that would be responsible for paying for the neighboring country. Three years later, the brave, impeccable media skill, occupied the space that corresponds to populist inventions in campaign: a denial. Or what is worse: a rectification. Since Trump fantasized about a new wall, more in the hyperbolic than in the realizable, there have been few creations that have used dystopian candy – although in reality there is already a physically defined border between the two countries … – to claim a world heterogeneous without red lines. The Pangea of ​​Chaos. Gigi Saul Guerrero has done his part with Culture Shock, the star chapter of the anthology series Into the Dark from Blumhouse. A virtual reality frontier where immigrants lived digital lives as perfect as nondescript that discouraged them from invading the country of destination?

Into the Dark: All chapters, from WORST to BETTER

The peripheral vision of Gigi, in fact an eloquent and promising director so active that it is hard to keep track of him – he jumps from project to project with agility and voracity from another world – has made this other idea possible in which it is the United States who prepares at the border a barracks in which to retain immigrants and feed them, with the promise of a new world and a better world, without this can generate uneasiness for the American patriot, free to mix with the Latinos he does not want. After the recent shooting in El Paso, this issue has gained critical relevance, although Gigi extrapolates the teaching of Culture Shock to the divided planet. Made in a disconcerting pastel tone with which the new world, smiling and perfect, receives immigrants who arrive emaciated, dirty and tired of darker tones, Culture Shock has nailed a 100% of critics in Rotten Tomatoes and it has been said that it is an essential film for any generation. Gigi has taught her at several festivals (Los Angeles, Chicago, Texas …) where the positive reception has been substantially unanimous, and even came to be offered at Sitges 2019, although her broadcast in Hulu Latin America ruled her out to enter the final grid.

Culture Shock brings together several of the issues of disappointed culture: political, social message, skeptical look at the future, technophobia … What is your main strength?

I feel that the message, or the various messages provided by the film are very clear. But the greatest strength of the film is that it deals with an international theme, a message not only for Latinos, or Americans … The film is about the independence of each individual. What does it mean to have a dream in another world? What does it mean to leave your home to pursue something better? The American dream? This movie could not be done at a better time, when filmmakers like me are not afraid to tell real stories, with important, strong, uncomfortable themes. I am very excited to be part of this new generation of Latin American horror movies!

In Culture Shock you propose a world of VR as an alternative to the wall on the US border. and Mexico. Is it more powerful as a metaphor or as a potential idea for a future …?

Both! At first it was simply a metaphor, but during filming days it was very hard to see in the news the unfair treatment of Hispanics on the US border. I could not believe it! So I felt that what we are filming as a future is literally the present … Horrible. I felt that it was my responsibility as a director not to be afraid to talk about the truth and how I feel inside the movie.


How did this opportunity to work for Blumhouse arise in something as ambitious as the Into the Dark anthology?

I am happy for the opportunity! It was totally one of those moments of right time, right place: Blumhouse It was the first general meeting in Los Angeles that got me my new agents. At that time they told me that they were looking for a new director for the film Culture Shock -before I had another name- and I shouted: they need a Mexican! (laughs) From there I had the opportunity to make my presentation and prepare to compete. I felt that this was the perfect feature for me. Where I come from, my experience as an emigrant totally fit the voice that this story needed.

Nor have you turned 30 and you already stand out in a genre in which women take ever more firm steps: is the future of terror feminine?

Yes. And more than anything, the future of terror is to continue growing to be of the most important genres, for which in turn it needs fresh and new voices. Women are taking more recognition and risks with the stories we tell and that are coming to occur.

Your terror is certainly complex and always hides a face B: you have come to compare with idols of the new batch of slow horror like Ari Aster, Robert Eggers or Jordan Peele. Will you consolidate?

Thanks for the comparison! (laughs) I think yes…. This new wave is helping gender to be taken into account, more appreciated. The stories we tell now are more personal, they unite us as a community and keep us alert within the world we live in. Thanks to filmmakers like them, we recognize more horror stories as high quality movies, something essential for the genre.

Gigi Saul Guerrero, 2019

Halloween, Diabolical Doll, Scream … It seems that we are determined to teach a whole new generation what the 80-90 genre was. What do we do with the remakes?

I have nothing against them if they become good movies and especially new interpretations. I do not like when they are made to have the American version. you know? An original story will always have a special place in my heart, but luckily we have seen many good remakes recently. I loved I sighed and of course ITEM, I can't wait to see the second part!

As is logical, you carry your Mexico in everything you do, how strong is the link with your work?

It has always been important for me to represent my roots in everything I can. I love being Mexican, it fills me with pride. A story like Culture Shock It would not be the same without a Mexican director, the sensibilities and small details of the story need a special authenticity. From the language to the costumes, everything had its purpose.

Why is Mexico such a good hotbed in which to inspire good horror movies?

Mexico has a colorful and very rich culture, full of unforgettable traditions and legends. The experience of being born and growing in Mexico has a lot of value since we were a child, then our grandparents tell us scary stories so that we behave well, they introduce us to the genre. And since we were little we grew up with that dark, very spiritual side. That is why I am sure that being Mexican gives me a different advantage and perspective to tell horror stories.

If reality always exceeds fiction, why continue making films?

We can never escape reality, but fiction does give us that hope of overcoming our fears. An overflowing imagination, without limits.

What's next for Gigi?

Now I work on several large projects thanks above all to the great reception of Culture Shock. The most I can tell at the moment is that Blumhouse and I will announce new projects and that my team in Vancouver, Luchagore Productions, also has big plans for the future …

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