Baby crib is foregrounding a lady in a dark room. Photo courtesy of XYZ films.

Film Review: Huesera: The Bone Woman

Film Reviews

Huesera: The Bone Woman
Director: Michelle Garza Cervera 

XYZ Films and Shudder
Streaming: 02.16

Is motherhood a modern miracle or a parasitic curse? Most women and people capable of childbirth have opinions that likely fall somewhere in the middle, and an exploration of these extremities inevitably sheds light on the general public’s regard for the shifting nature of parenthood.  

Huesera: The Bone Woman, a Spanish-language film by first-time feature director Garza Cervera explores this social dichotomy. Based on a Mexican folktale, the film follows Valeria (Natalia Solián) as she and her husband Raul (Alfonso Dosal) prepare to welcome a child. One night, Valeria, unable to sleep, goes out onto her balcony. Instead of a breath of fresh air, she receives the scare of a lifetime and the beginning of a haunting that will eventually shake her to her core.  

Inconsolable after seeing a woman jump from the balcony across the street, break both legs and then crawl towards her apartment, Valeria awakens her husband with a blood-curdling scream. He finds nothing there, and the body of the woman is missing. He stares at his wife with suspicion and ultimately convinces Valeria it was just a bad dream. Similar hauntings persist throughout the film, and the people around Valeria increasingly lose faith in her sanity. Valeria desperately turns to both her past and a sort of ancient magic for guidance.  

Huesera: The Bone Woman’s major strength is its balance between complicated subject matter and terrifying visuals. The horror elements stand starkly against a relatively normal background, with production design that looks real and lived in. In their simplicity, they shine. The film’s climax loses a bit of its terrifying nature in its final set piece, but the visuals are nonetheless intriguing. Part of what makes the film so terrifying is that every set piece feels authentic, borrowing the Italian, neorealist tendency to shoot things as they are rather than “dress the set” as is the standard for many fictional films. The juxtaposition of the horrible, bone-cracking, slithering creatures against the realism of the surroundings makes the viewer feel as though Valeria’s haunt could happen to them.  

Huesera’s conclusion feels a bit rushed. Perhaps a little more connective tissue in regards to Valeria’s personal feelings would have made for a more productive ending. A neat resolution is by no means a requirement when discussing a film’s quality, but in this case a bit more explanation might have helped the film drive home its themes. Ultimately, Huesera is about fluid ideas rather than concrete statements. Societal perceptions of motherhood are one thing, but the role is ultimately a personal one. The combination of the scary story and the motherhood theme makes for an interesting film, and what is horror if not an interesting look at the attitudes of society at any given time. Huesera: The Bone Woman is not horror’s next big thing, but it’s certainly worth your time. –Mickey Randle 

Read more reviews of horror films dealing with motherhood:
Film Review: Clock
Film Review: From Black