Valeria, a young woman expecting her first child, becomes cursed by a sinister entity. Plunged into a terrifying and dangerous world, a group of witches emerge as her only hope for safety and salvation, but not without grave risk.
From first-time director Michelle Garza Cervera, Huesera: The Bone Woman is a powerful, emotional journey of self-discovery in the guise of body horror.
Huesera: The Bone Woman follows Valeria (Natalia Solián) through her trouble-free pregnancy and journey into motherhood’s joys. Jests aside, there is a lot to unpack with this film as we move through multiple layers of social commentary, cultural cynicism, and identity politics. The film is stacked with metaphor and allegory and is a high school teacher’s dream.
Cervera’s inspiration for the film came from real, personal life events. In her director’s statement, she comments:
Throughout my childhood, my grandmother had the image of an “unnamable witch” because she was a woman who took the decision of leaving her family home. One day I dared to ask for the first time, who was she? What was her story? This is how Huesera emerged: from the intention of observing her without the moral judgements that stubbornly condemn and silence women who dare to openly doubt their maternity.
Dissecting all of the film’s elements would warrant an essay and not a mere review, so I’m going to instead focus on what it got right and what it got wrong—and in doing so explain why the film has divided critics and audiences.
Firstly, Solián’s performance of Valeria is perfection. The range of feeling that she emotes through face and gesture is oftentimes captivating. Her pain is visible in her body language and her frustration, fear and anxiety are all felt through her acting. It is truly an award-worthy portrayal.
Secondly, the film’s primary theme of finding oneself is a truly beautiful, important message. Being true to who you are and not just what you believe society expects of you was really a very powerful narrative wonderfully executed. The film has a lot to teach and it does so through this expression of body horror, using a genre film in a not-so-subtle way to show that we need to be broken before we can be whole again.
And if you have made it to this point of the review, I’m going to presume that you know why this film is impressing critics and not so much horror enthusiasts; Huesera: The Bone Woman is a drama marketed as a horror film. This is a work of art and not really something that your average horror fan is going to enjoy sitting through. I was—if we’re being honest—disappointed myself. From the artwork and the description, I was expecting something very different and felt a little cheated.
Now, I was able to appreciate the film for what it was—a very powerful, touching piece of cinema. That is also, however, not what I wanted to be watching when I sat down to this…I wanted malicious monsters, nefarious entities and an evening of silver-screen screams. Huesera: The Bone Woman is a film that everyone should see but it is not a film that everyone will enjoy.
Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. Huesera: The Bone Woman will be available on Shudder.com this Friday, May 12th. The trailer and artwork are below.
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