For years, Guillermo del Toro has defined Mexican horror. From Cronos to The Devil’s Backbone to Crimson Peak, del Toro is the auteur with whom we most associate with Mexican scare flicks. But there’s plenty of good genre fare to find from south of the States. From Alucarda to We Are What We Are to Tigers Are Not Afraid, there’s a lot out there for horror fans to explore. Now an up-and-coming Mexican filmmaker Michelle Garza Cervera makes her feature-length directorial debut with Huesera: The Bone Woman. Mixing supernatural and body horror with Mexican folklore, Cervera has impressed critics with the confidence and skill in debut work.
After months of trying, Valeria and her husband, Raul, are thriller to learn she’s finally pregnant. But something’s not quite right. Valeria’s excitement slowly gives way to doubts – about her relationship and motherhood. And a seemingly supernatural force only feeds her doubts. As each month passes by during her pregnancy, a dark figure increasingly haunts her and her unborn child.
Huesera: The Bone Woman a Layered Mix of Body and Supernatural Horror Movie
Almost immediately, Huesera: The Bone Woman is several things all at once. Yet writer and director Michelle Garza Cervera – along with co-writer Abia Castillo – seamlessly blend these different elements into a powerful horror movie and character study. Much of Huesera: The Bone Woman feels like a supernatural horror that could simply just check off familiar horror tropes. That is, the genre has offered more than a handful of demonic possession movies wherein some demonic entity threatens a woman’s unborn child. Cervera certainly handles this supernatural imagery with a deft hand. Several scenes of faceless figures and shadows in the corner of the screen put you on edge.
As the thriller progresses. Cervera slowly works in unsettling body horror with some cringeworthy limb-twisting.
However, Cervera and Castillo flip the script as they connect their supernatural horror story to Valeria’s apprehensions about motherhood and her relationship. This makes Huesera: The Bone Woman a horror movie made by women for women, touching on themes that haven’t been explored in the genre. As the thriller progresses. Cervera slowly works in unsettling body horror with some cringeworthy limb-twisting. But Cervera even carefully works these visceral bits of horror into the story. It’s all in served to a complex study of Valeria’s doubts and the physical toll of pregnancy on a woman’s body.
Huesera: The Bone Woman Explores Complex Themes Behind a Strong Performance
What elevates Huesera: The Bone Woman above most horror movies is the complex nature of its storytelling. On one level, Huesera The Bone Woman is a familiar haunting story – albeit very well told – that recalls classics like Rosemary’s Baby. Its inclusion of body horror elements serves to distinguish it from similar fare just a bit. But it’s Cervera and Castillo’s subtext centering around the pressure on women to emulate motherhood that sets this thriller apart. That is, Cervera and Castillo seamlessly connect a supernatural horror movie with a narrative exploring the pressure on women to want children and a family. There’s a subtly to the narrative that culminates in a narrative that very quietly may require some viewers to pause and take stock of what they just watched.
…Cervera and Castillo seamlessly connect a supernatural horror movie with a narrative exploring the pressure on women to want children and a family.
Though North American audiences won’t be familiar with Natalia Solián, her performance fully embraces the complexity of the character. From its opening scene, which finds Valeria with her mother and sister praying for fertility in front of a giant statue of the Virgin Mary, Solián hints that her character feels pressure to be a mother. Flashbacks show Valeria living a very different life, suggesting she’s compromised a bit of herself. To her credit, Solián captures all of these emotions in her portrayal resulting in a quietly effective performance.
Huesera: The Bone Woman
Perhaps the only more impressive than its quality is the knowledge that Huesera: The Bone Woman represents Cervera’s feature length debut. This is a supremely confident outing that boasts rich, haunting atmosphere and layered storytelling. Moreover, Cervera tells a bold story that will likely resonate for a underserved audience in horror without alienating horror fans in general. There’s already been some big horror releases in 2023, but Huesera: The Bone Woman is a quiet candidate for a year-end ‘Best of’ list for the genre.