Just in time for Independence Day, the latest episode of the Blumhouse TV/Hulu series Into the Dark is set to premiere on July 4th. Entitled Culture Shock, the film is directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero and is centered around a young woman named Marisol (Martha Higareda), who has dreams of moving from Mexico to the United States, but finds herself immersed in a hyper-realistic nightmare when her wish is fulfilled, and her experiences in the US of A aren't exactly all they're cracked up to be. Culture Shock also stars Barbara Crampton, Shawn Ashmore, Creed Bratton, and Richard Cabral, and features a script written by James Benson, Efrén Hernández, and Guerrero.
Recently, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with Crampton about her involvement with Culture Shock, and she discussed how Guerrero had impressed her years prior with her short film La Quinceañera, which made it an easy decision for her to sign on to become a part of Culture Shock. Barbara also discussed how the production design and wardrobe helped immerse her in the surrealistic world of her character, Betty, and how much she enjoyed working with the film's star, Higareda.
Crampton, who is plenty busy these days with her role in producing the upcoming Castle Freak reimagining, also chatted about what fans can expect from this new take on H.P. Lovecraft from director Tate Steinsiek, which is just about to head into production in Albania.
Barbara, you’re someone who has taken control of your career over the last several years, and you're very specific about things that you want to take on. So, I'm curious, what was it about this project in particular where you were like, “Yes, I really want to be involved with this?”
Barbara Crampton: Well, to be honest with you, Heather, the first thing was Gigi herself. I had gone to the Morbido Film Festival a couple of years ago, and her series short, La Quinceañera, was playing there. You saw it, okay. I was there promoting We Are Still Here, I think, and I had some time to see some of their films, and so I went into it blindly and watched the short and I was so blown away. I loved it so much. It has such strength and clarity and dynamism. I thought to myself, “Who the heck is this person that directed this?”
I went back the next day, and I watched it again. And who does that at a film festival? I've never done that. I've never watched anything twice. Why would you? There are so many other things to watch, but I wanted to see it again because I couldn't believe what I just saw. It had such ferocity. I just loved it. So I made it a point to find Gigi and meet her at the festival, and I just gushed to her about how much I loved La Quinceañera. So we just kept in touch.
She had told me when she got the Hulu movie that she was doing it, and I was so excited for her. A few months after that, she said she had a part for me, but television being what it is – and this happened to me on Channel Zero as well – I had to audition for it. I had no problem with that at all, and I read it, and I loved the subject matter. I thought it was an important story to tell. Also, I loved my part because it was so interesting and different for me. So I auditioned and then the next day they gave me the part. That's how it all happened.
If you're talking about the broader implications, which I think was initially in your question, I would say that this is a timely issue that we're dealing with, immigration and border crossing, and this movie talks about it very specifically. The great thing about horror is that we play on emotions of loss and anxiety and fear. However, in Culture Shock, that's also mixed with a lot of hope and longing and love, and that packs a powerful punch. So, despite what you believe socially or politically, we're all human beings, and I think this movie will touch people in a way that they're not expecting.
How great was it to be able to come out and support a female horror filmmaker in this regard? I was excited when I heard that Gigi was getting to do one of these episodes for Into the Dark, and it feels like the industry, in terms of horror entertainment, has been better lately about making more opportunities for women to show what they can do as storytellers.
Barbara Crampton: Yeah, I haven't worked with too many female directors. I worked with Vivienne Vaughn on Deathcember, but it's a small segment. I worked with Axelle Carolyn on her Tales of Halloween segment, so this is the first feature that I've ever worked on. I've been in the business for 35 years, and I worked for 12 years on four different soap operas where I did have the opportunity to work with women there, but this is my first feature working with a female [director], and I'm so glad it's Gigi. She is strong, and she's like a stick of dynamite on the set. She is so ferocious and so strong in her direction. I can only speak for myself, but I feel like my performance has a lot of her energy running through me. She was very pointed and specific about her direction, and she's a powerful collaborator, very communicative, and I feel like a lot of the stuff I played really came from her. Her stamp is on every aspect of this movie.
She had firm opinions about the wardrobe, about the production design, about the lighting, about the camera moves. She was just a force on set, and it was nothing short of thrilling to work with somebody who had such a strong point of view about what they were doing. And it's been a long time coming for her. She's directed so many short films, and she has been working in this business for a very long time, and she's ready. She's prepared to embark upon a tremendous career in this genre, and I feel blessed and honored that I got to work with her on her first feature.
You just mentioned the wardrobe and the production design. Once we get into Cape Joy, the movie turns into something very different, and I'm sure being in those environments and wearing those clothes and being in the middle of this pastel, idyllic setting helped you settle into who Betty was in this world.
Barbara Crampton: It's everything. The setting was so specific, the colors were so dynamic, that it infuses your character with the feeling of what the director is going for and what the three people that wrote the story, what their vision is for the feeling of the character. It helped me. You always do your prep work where you learn your lines, you come up with some motivation and some intentions and ways that you think you're going to play a scene. But everything gets colored and altered once you're actually in the environment.
It was a very strong backdrop for us and helped to infuse us with an energy of what I think Gigi was going for. So, I loved that world. I loved that home that my character lived in and the streets that I was walking on. It was just incredible to live in that world and work in that world.
How much did you enjoy working with Martha on Culture Shock? I loved her performance in this movie so much, and you’re right there by her side for a lot of this journey that she goes on in the film.
Barbara Crampton: She's an incredible performer. We got along terrifically. We just had an excellent rapport. She's an extremely feeling human being—extremely. She feels very deeply, and she had to play a lot of anxiety and fear. In a lot of the scenes crossing the border, which I wasn't a part of obviously, but also in the scene in Cape Joy that I was involved in, there was a lot of feeling and anxiousness and relief and happiness.
Her emotions were all over the place in that film, and she was able to hit it every single time. She was just a real joy to work with. She's a very open performer and very malleable and just an excellent listener, and we just got along great. I loved working with her.
Before we go, I wanted to ask about the Castle Freak remake, because I'm excited about this new iteration and I know you guys are about to begin production on it soon. Because this is a movie that meant a lot to your career, I'm curious, how did you end up coming into the remake from a producer standpoint now and what makes the timing right now for you guys to go in and play around in the Castle Freak sandbox once again?
Barbara Crampton: Yeah, okay, there are a lot of answers to a lot of questions in that question [laughs]. So, first of all, I'll say, when I came in to work on Puppet Master with Dallas Sonnier, he and I got along like a house on fire. I love him. He's a fantastic support system for filmmakers and their voices and telling the stories that are meaningful to them, and he lets the creative people go out on their own. He doesn't try to hold their hand or put his own stamp on things. He is allowing creative people to do their work. So he gave me an opportunity to also have a voice in Fangoria magazine, where I have an ongoing column. And I can't say enough good things about the man. I really adore him, and we really see eye to eye, and we get along very well.
I think when he saw that I had also produced Beyond the Gates, so when he was getting ready to do Castle Freak, it just makes sense, right? I jumped at the chance. I said yes, in whatever capacity, whether I'm in it or not, I don't care. Let's just tell a great story. So, I was able to be there at the very beginning when we had about ten writers come in and pitch on the story. It was essential for us to tell a different story, but to also go to the second point of your question, to tell a story about an outsider and that is the original title of the Lovecraft story that the original Castle Freak movie is based on, The Outsider.
The first thing that I said to Dallas was that I thought we should call it The Outsider, just because The Outsider is a very poignant theme right now in our culture, both societally and politically. He said we needed to keep Castle Freak because it's a known name, which makes sense. So, now, we have a castle, and we have a freak, but it's an entirely different story than the initial one that I was involved with. We had two excellent pitches, but this one in particular is from Kathy Charles, who just blew it out of the water. We loved her take on it, especially because we wanted it to have a different set of characters.
So, now it's a group of people. There's a group that's coming to this castle, and it points to two particular actors, a boyfriend, and a girlfriend and what their story is and what they're going through. We've had three or four different drafts on the script so far, and I think that people are going to respond just as strongly to this story as they did with the first—this dynamic between these two characters that are trying to find their way to one another through a tragic happening. It's hard for them to come together and then we're going to throw in some more cosmic, Lovecraft horror, and expand on that universe a little bit to fill it out and make it a bigger story.
But at its heart, it's about two people and what they're going through. We're going to throw the freak back in there to have some elements of horror that will be quite visually captivating. And also, we are going to have a message of its own that's very timely to what's going on culturally now, too.