Huesera: The Bone Woman
huesera: the bone woman | michelle garza cervera | alfonso dosal | mayra batalla | natalia solian | drama | curse | pregnant | allegory | haunted | sonia couoh | martha claudia moreno | aida lopez | samantha castillo | mercedes hernandez | enoc leano | mexico
Film: Huesera: The Bone Woman
Director: Michelle Garza Cervera
Writers: Michelle Garza Cervera and Abia Castillo
Starring: Alfonso Dosal, Mayra Batalla and Natalia Solián
This is a movie that caught my attention when looking at what was playing at the Gateway Film Center. When I learned that this was horror, I put it on a list of ones to check out and see what worked with my schedule. This one I caught on Sunday without knowing too much aside it being in genre, foreign and a 2023 release. I’ve also given it a rewatch to see where I stand for my end of year list.
Synopsis: Valeria (Natalia Solián) has long dreamed of becoming a mother. After learning that she’s pregnant, she expects to feel happy and yet, something’s off.
We start this with Valeria and her mother going up steps. They seem to be doing a superstitious ritual of sorts. This duo is going to a monument of the virgin Mary. The reason behind it is that Valeria and her husband, Raúl (Alfonso Dosal), are trying to get pregnant. We see them prepping things and there is excitement. They are cautiously optimistic.
It then happens for them. Raúl is enthusiastic and Valeria, although not on his level, is happy too. They share this information with both their families. We see that Raúl’s mother might be a bit overbearing toward Valeria. Her family has a different dynamic. Her sister, Vero (Sonia Couoh), has children and Valeria isn’t good with them. Vero is shocked that she wants to have her own. She never has offered to watch hers. It feels like there is a history between the two that isn’t great. This rubs Valeria the wrong way and she offers to watch her niece and nephew. Part of this seems to prove a point to herself and to her family.
Valeria also must give up more than it seems her husband does. She has a room that is her workshop. She makes things with wood. This will become the baby’s nursery. This is normal for new parents. One night though, when she can’t sleep, Valeria thinks she sees a woman jump to death from across the road. She wakes up Raúl, but there’s no body. She is then haunted by this entity. It causes her anxiety that she cracks her knuckles and other bones in her body. Almost to the point of dislocation. This couple also encounters an old friend of Octavia (Mayra Batalla). She never left the neighborhood where Valeria’s parents live. These two women also have more of a history.
Now that is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to characters. Where I want to start is that this hit home for me. When I first watched this movie, my wife and I just welcomed a child into our life. The situation there was harrowing as our daughter, Mackenzie, had to spend time in the NICU. Things are fine now, but I wanted to lay this out for people that didn’t know. Seeing Raúl and Valeria wanting to become parents and everything that comes with it connected with me. It also adds horror as well.
With those opening thoughts out there, let me delve more into the meat of the movie. There are a few things I want to go over. I think the first will be new parents. This can be scary without something supernatural potentially happening. I know when we brought home our daughter, we didn’t sleep for the first week. If we did, it wasn’t restful. We also didn’t get enough. It wasn’t even necessarily Mackenzie doing anything. It was just the fear that she would stop breathing. Raúl seems to be handling things better than Valeria. They also have their daughter in her crib in a different room and using a monitor. That would help since you can’t hear every little thing that snaps you awake with fear. There is a terrifying scene though when we see something happening on the monitor and one of the characters doesn’t. That scene made me tear up just thinking what if that happened to my child. I realize I’m bringing something to the table not everyone does, but it helped me connect.
I then want to shift this over to Valeria. This is told from her perspective. She seems ready to be a mother. We see when that responsibility is there, she might not actually be though. The alternative is that it is harder than she imagined. This is all true. I like this doubt as I’ve experienced it as well. Valeria seemingly must give up her hobby. She also had bigger dreams of getting away from this city. She gave up when her brother passed away and she wanted to fill the void with her mother. She was in a band with Octavia and Valeria decided to ‘grow up’. Octavia still has dreams of getting out, she just hasn’t yet. Valeria and she may have been more than just friends as well. I get the idea that Valeria feels trapped and losing control of her life. This is another interesting idea to explore.
Now let me get to the supernatural aspects. I did a quick search to see if this is lore that was real. I’m only finding things about this movie so it feels like our writers, Michelle Garza Cervera and Abia Castillo, made it up for this. I love what they’re doing though. It almost feels like a curse you’d get from Japanese movies like Ringu or Ju-On. Valeria sees this woman across the way kill herself. We see that she might not be dead either. From there, it gets into their apartment. Valeria sees it elsewhere. This brings in body horror with Valeria cracking her knuckles and other parts of her body. She takes it so far that I’m afraid when it happens that she is going to dislocate that part of her body. That made me cringe and I love it. There might not be an entity though. This is pushing that it could just be in her head and manifesting her fears in the world. No one else sees it and it is just the aftermath of things. Going this route can be hit or miss for me. It works here though. It creeped me out what they do with it. For what it is worth, I do think this is all in her head and she is doing different things. It doesn’t take away anything for me though. This is partum and post-partum depression.
Since I’ve brought up the body horror, let me go over to filmmaking. I’ll start with the effects. We get this in the form of CGI, but I don’t have issues with it. This movie isn’t working with the biggest budget. There is a good amount of this that looks practical and it had me squirming in my seat. I loved that. There were times where I could tell it was done with computers, but with how I read the movie, that is fine. I’m not taking points off for it. I also think that the cinematography helps as well. Things happen in the corners of the frame. That creeps me out. There is soft focus to hide aspects as well. This works in conjunction with the sound design. Hearing bones crack made this even scarier for me. I think this is a well-made film across the board.
All that is then left to go into would be with the acting. I thought that Dosal was good as our rock. He is grounded and trying to pull Valeria there. I wish he would listen to her more, but I also understand why he doesn’t. The true star here though is Solián. There are equal parts frustration and compassion that I feel toward her. That is a great job to get me to feel that way about a character. When you are dealing with things that are out of your control, whether it is hormonal or supernatural, it can be nearly impossible alone. She does isolate herself though as well. Batalla is solid as almost this ‘temptation’. She is just living her life though and it is no one else’s fault. In support I’ll also give credit to Martha Claudia Moreno, Couoh, Samantha Castillo, Aida López, Mercedes Hernández, Enoc Leaño and the rest are all solid.
In conclusion, this is a movie that I didn’t know much about and I had no expectations. This movie captivated me. There are things here that I’ve experienced that helped me to connect so I understand that not everyone will get out of this what I did. We have an interesting story. I like the lore they established. This is also a well-made movie so that helps as well. This is a dark horse that could be a contender for my end of year. Upon that rewatch, this held up for me. Barring we get a flurry to end the year, I wouldn’t be shocked if this is in my final top ten list.
My Rating: 8 out of 10