Culture shock

Culture Shock’s American Dream is beautiful on the outside, but gruesome on the inside

As a voice actor, Mexico City-born Gigi Saul Guerrero has had roles in a number of Netflix animated series. She also teaches at the Vancouver Film School.

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Culture shock

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Where: Hollywood sequel

Culture Shock, Gigi Saul Guerrero’s feature debut, offers a dizzying twist on the American dream from the perspective of Mexican immigrants.

The Vancouver director Guerrero followed up with Bingo Hell, a horror-comedy about a group of seniors who fight to keep their beloved bingo hall from falling into sinister hands. It is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

As a voice actor, Mexico City-born Guerrero has had roles in a number of Netflix animated series. She also teaches at the Vancouver Film School.

We spoke to Culture Shock’s multi-hyphenate, early influences, and the latest movie that scared her:

Q: There’s quite a twist in the second act of Culture Shock. What inspired this?

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A: For many years since I moved from Mexico to Canada, I was always asked, “Which would you rather, Mexico or Canada?” My answer has always been, “These are two different worlds. I can’t compare them. So when I made this movie, I wanted it to be shocking, the change after the first act. For me as an immigrant, it was like that. I still can’t choose one or the other to this day. I wanted that to be the case for the characters as well.

Q: What was the script like when you first read it?

A: It was called Crossing. The concept was super cool. But it lacked that extra Mexican vibe, that authenticity, that immigrant perspective. I wanted to show real horror in the first act, something that wasn’t fiction. At that time, the border crisis in the United States was happening. I felt it was my responsibility to talk about it. I talked about it with my family for a whole year. Everything lined up at the right time. I didn’t want to hold back. I’m glad the studio said yes to rewrites and bringing that layer of authenticity.

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Q: Do you consider yourself a student of horror films?

A: I would say I graduated. I was definitely a student. When I started my film studies, I realized that I didn’t watch a lot of classics at all. I stuck with what was current, what was cool. But you have to learn where the storytelling came from and how it evolved. It is the responsibility of the next generation.

Q: Your bio mentions The Exorcist as a big influence. Was it one of the first horror movies you saw?

A: Yes. It has been re-edited with deleted scenes and corrected colors. I was only 10 years old and I convinced my mother to take me. She thought it would traumatize me. It was my first horror movie experience in a theater. I came out crying. We Mexicans are very spiritual people. I thought the whole movie was real. But there was this feeling where I thought, “Wow, can a horror movie follow you home.” And I use it today to inspire me, how a horror movie can follow you for days, months, years. I like this. I thought Linda Blair was in the room with me for days. But I was delighted. Sorry mom, but you kind of opened the door for me.

Q: Do you remember the last time you had a physical reaction to something in a horror movie? It must take a lot.

A: You would be surprised. I grew up in a very Catholic, very Mexican home and family. So when I say I believe in ghosts, I really believe in all things supernatural. That’s why I didn’t make a movie like that, because I’m going to open a portal for the poltergeist to visit the set. But I think the last time I jumped and screamed was The Wailing, a very scary Korean movie from 2016. He got me a couple of times.

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