Huesera: The Bone Woman: First Time’s the Charm, by Rudie Obias
Horror is one of the few genres that can tackle just about any family dynamic, either conventional and taboo, in an effective manner, while delivering bloody good thrills and scares. Even if you miss the subtext or its themes go over your head, a good horror movie can still terrify you to make a lasting impression. And if you like it enough, then you might notice the subtext and deeper themes you might have missed the first time around during a repeat viewing.
From Friday The 13th to The Babadook, there’s a tradition in horror movies that examines what it means to be a good and bad mother, while Huesera: The Bone Woman is a new memorable entry. Written and directed by Michelle Garza Cervera, in her debut feature film, Huesera: The Bone Woman is a very haunting and chilling look at motherhood, queer identity, and self-deception set in modern Mexico.
The film follows Valeria Hernandez, played by Natalia Solián, a carpenter who tries to have a baby with her husband Raúl, played by Alfonso Dosal. After she gets pregnant, Valeria starts to have chilling visions of a mysterious “bone cracking” and faceless spirit that haunts her life when she gives up her work and her own family doubts she can be a good mother, while the sinister entity leaves her questioning if she even wants to bring a baby into the world in the first place.
Huesera: The Bone Woman is gruesome and bloody, while it also feels unsettling—especially with all of the bone cracking sound design that goes on in the film. Not only does the spirit constantly crack and twitch, but Valeria also cracks her knuckles whenever she feels uneasy—which this writer can relate to, as a habitual knuckle cracker.
However, the film is the product of two parts; The first part feels very conventional with a lot of familiar horror tropes, while the second part feels more lively, exciting, and truly bizarre. It feels intentional since in the second part of the film, Valeria runs into her former-lover Octavia, played by Mayra Batalla, in a chance meeting. She really shakes Valeria out of her day-to-day life (and the movie itself) with a dose of punk rock energy.
The pair were teenage lovers when both were young and irreverent, while both were exploring their sexuality as two queer women. They meet again after a decade or more apart, as Octavia turns Valeria’s life upside down, while she remembers her younger days of “anti-domestication” attitude and lifestyle. Now she’s older, married to a man, and on the verge of motherhood, Valeria’s shift to her true self is beginning to become clearer and clearer.
Huesera: The Bone Woman is a fantastic first film that shows a lot of potential from the director. However, while it is effective as a bone chiller, it stumbles a bit from scene-to-scene—especially in the first half of the movie. But overall, filmmaker Michelle Garza Cervera has created something special with the creepy and menacing Bone Woman curse, while the film has a clear point-of-view and voice that is unique and strong.
Huesera: The Bone Woman hits theaters on February 10 and then VOD on February 16.