Directed by: Michelle Garza Cervera
Premise: A newly pregnant woman (Natalia Solián) has visions of a violent spirit. As her pregnancy progresses so does the intensity of the paranormal phenomena.
What Works: Stories of the supernatural often work best when the ghosts represent something psychological such as guilt or repressed desires. Huesera: The Bone Woman adopts elements of a Mexican folktale in which a woman gathers animal bones and breathes life into it. The huesera myth figuratively acts out rebirth and the desire for freedom. This film doesn’t dramatize that specific scenario but instead uses the idea to explore the anxieties about pregnancy and motherhood. Valeria is a skilled craftsperson who makes furniture and when she becomes pregnant she gradually loses many of the parts of her life that gave her meaning and identity. Popular culture presumes parenthood to be a panacea and a capstone to people’s lives but for some people that may not be the case and Huesera dramatizes that anxiety. The story is really about a woman in conflict with her personal desires and the commitments that she has made or perceives to owe the people in her life, namely her husband and family. The haunting literalizes her growing sense of discontent and panic about losing herself to motherhood and that’s visualized very effectively with some really interesting images.
What Doesn’t: Huesera is rightly categorized as a horror picture but it’s quite departed from the way horror is presented in contemporary films especially American horror pictures. This is a bit of psychological horror with a significant influence of magical realism. As such Huesera isn’t necessarily scary in the mode of a haunted house or a slasher picture. The fear isn’t so much mortal terror as it is existential dread. That’s not a flaw of Huesera but the film would have benefitted from a few more scary elements that would have raised the stakes as seen in The Babadook and Mama.
Bottom Line: Huesera: The Bone Woman is a thoughtful work of horror and fantasy about the anxieties of motherhood and identity. It isn’t very scary, at least not in a visceral way, but it does dramatize anxieties about the body and identity in ways that are unnerving.
Episode: #970 (October 22, 2023)