Film Review: Huesera – The Bone Woman
HUESERA – THE BONE WOMAN, a Mexican-Peruvian pregnancy horror that twists the subgenre, leaving Rosemary’s Baby to pale in comparison. Writer-director Michelle Garza Cervera debuts a powerfully feminist horror film for her first feature, and it is terrifying! HUESERA arrives at the beginning of 2023, but even so, it may be hard to top.
When Valeria (Natalia Solián) becomes pregnant, initially, it is what she hoped and prayed for. But with the pregnancy has come a sinister entity that stalks and torments her. It drives her away from a disbelieving partner (Alfonso Dosal) and unsupportive family members towards old friends and dark magic that may come with a price.
The Bone Woman is not just in the name; prepare for some gruesome skeletal body horror. Settle in for some spine stretching, joint snapping and a classic move to which even the most seasoned horror fan is not immune: broken bones sticking out of the skin. It psychologically unsettles you as well, as the more Valeria is hunted and then gaslighted, the more we feel as scared and paranoid as her. We never doubt Valeria; HUESREA helps us see the horrors of antenatal and postnatal mental health; while scary, it also shows deep nuance and compassion for rarely talked about struggles.
Exploring pregnancy as a kind of bodily haunting provides riveting elements of rituals, witches and Mexican folk horror. Speaking more about this leads into spoiler territory, but it has to be said that HUESREA has many shades of horror and balances them magnificently.
A brave and powerful horror film daring to challenge heteronormative motherhood and gender roles. Through Valeria’s horrific and harrowing ordeal, HUESERA is a film exploring how women are expected to go through pregnancy and early motherhood with nothing but joy and feel honoured to be merely a vessel. Revealing and extremely timely, it is a film that dares to speak up for women who do not want to conform to this version of motherhood and feel like it is being forced upon them, challenging persisting notions of heteronormative “happy families.”
Michelle Garza Cervera’s ability to weave clearly personal experiences into the film creates a genuineness that makes HUESERA all the more able to get under your skin. Cervera and co-writer Abia Castilo have written a film that reaches deep into its audience’s psyche but also gives a broader view into a diversity of Latin American and Latinx lives and sociocultural stories. HUESERA shows us that gendered experiences of class, age and LGBTQIA+ identity desperately need to become integral to the horror genre.
HUESERA – THE BONE WOMAN stands out not only for its representation of marginalised communities and subcultures but as a horror film whose monster will unnerve to the nth degree. Prepare to cover your mouth and maybe cover your eyes during this horror that is a hell of a kick-off to the year; I hope the rest of 2023 can keep up. HUESERA – THE BONE WOMAN has an exclusive release in US theatres on February 10th and VOD on February 16th from XYZ Films. It will be released to international audiences via the streaming service Shudder.
“Writer-director Michelle Garza Cervera debuts a powerfully feminist horror film for her first feature, and it is terrifying!”