Michelle Garza Cervera’s debut feature Huesera: The Bone Woman has been delivering mommy-brain nightmares to the film festival circuit this last year and is now playing in select theatres before arriving on VOD next week. It’s a creepy character study about a woman who has made a lot of compromises in her life, finding her at a vulnerable moment when she is beginning to feel the enormity of conforming to society’s pre-determined path for women.
Tragically, Huesera is much more of a drama with some nightmare imagery (see: Elevated Horror) than a straight-forward scare-a-thon, which is a bit of a bummer. That said, those nightmare images are really effective and Cervera finds unique ways to set the story apart from the copy+paste pregnancy horror format thanks to a fully realized character tired of making concessions.
Pregnancy is scary. I can’t even get pregnant, and I’m scared of it. And for every “it was the most wonderful experience of my life,” sentiment someone shares with me, I’ve had friends and family express how pregnancy was the most trying, troubling, and harrowing year(s) of their life. Every pregnancy is different but the Expectation and Reality are two entirely different experiences that feel worlds apart. That duality is the focus of Huesera and, more importantly, in Natalia Solián’s performance.
Valeria (Solián), is a complicated woman who has lived a life and makes decisions that only she would make. She doesn’t bumble through her own life letting other people dictate how she should feel and how she should act. The expectation is there, for sure. Her sister, her husband, their parents; They all have no problem butting in and making her feel guilty about wanting to forge her own path. And with every side-eyed comment, the weight of the life they expect of her is becoming unbearable.
Early in Huesera: The Bone Woman, Valeria is shown packing up her workshop to make space for her baby. She is clearly a very skilled furniture maker but as far as the world around her is concerned, that’s just a hobby to keep her mind occupied before she becomes a 24/7 mother. She packs up her tools and stuffs them into a closet that already has a bass guitar and a box of memories collecting dust in the back. Tucking versions of herself away has become too familiar and there just isn’t enough room for her to be a mother and an artist. One of the versions of Valeria must die.
As her due date approaches, the darkness seeps in. And if you have a hard time listening to bones bend and crack (or break through skin in horrific detail) you’re gonna love the scares in Huesera: The Bone Woman. Valeria‘s nightmares include people jumping off buildings, breaking her own fingers like they’re crab legs, and an orgy of faceless people contorting and snapping their own limbs. It’s all really stomach-churning thanks to some brilliantly disgusting sound effects.
Michelle Garza Cervera’s Huesera: The Bone Woman is a really interesting re-fresh on a subgenre that always seems to be telling the same story. Even Huesera isn’t free from those well-trodden beats but it still manages to surprise. Similar to last year’s Nanny, Huesera could be stripped of its nightmare imagery and still make for a really well-told drama. It’s light on Horror but it’s a darker and more frank movie about pregnancy than we’re usually given.
“…light on Horror but a really interesting re-fresh on a subgenre that always seems to be telling the same story.”
Michelle Garza Cervera’s Huesera: The Bone Woman is now playing in select theatres and lands on February 16. Share your thoughts with us (and any bizarre pregnancy dreams you experienced) over on Twitter or in the Nightmare on Film Street Discord! Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.