NOW IN THEATERS! Director Michelle Garza Cervera’s stunning feature debut, Huesera: The Bone Woman, uses conventional horror tropes to create true art. Valeria (Natalia Solian) and her husband Raul (Alfonso Dosal) are trying to get pregnant, going so far as to pray for a baby at a gigantic golden statue of the Virgin Mary. A carpenter by trade, Val is looking forward to building everything for the baby room herself.
However, when they are informed they are expecting, Val is told the chemicals she uses daily will harm the baby. So she has to pack up her tools as well as all her punk rock posters from her younger days. To make matters worse, Raul stops wanting to have sex with her because he is worried about the baby. But, Val still sneaks cigarettes out her window and one night spots a woman in the building across the street staring at her. When she waves, the other woman starts twitching and throws herself out the window. Val watches in horror as the bloody heap of broken bones on the pavement lurches up and stares at her.
Afterward, eerie things start happening all around Val, who isn’t as happy as she was expecting to be about motherhood. Soon she reaches out to Octavia (Mayra Batalla), who she ran with back in her queer punk grrl days. While Val tries to reconcile who she once was with who she is expected to be now, a dark shape with broken legs drags itself closer to her.
“…a dark shape with broken legs drags itself closer to [Val].”
The script Garza Cervera co-wrote with Abia Castillo is a bold drama about fears of motherhood and conformity. Then she adds the potent scary visuals and make-up effects that solidly put this into the horror realm. There is a legitimate argument to be made that Huesera: The Bone Woman is an art movie using horror window dressing to draw in a wider audience. Ever since Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, I have felt there is so much potential for horror to be used to enhance art films. While we have had several visually spectacular genre efforts worthy of being called art, we have only recently seen flicks that are firmly art pictures utilizing the tools of horror.
The film joins the company with recent spooky artistic triumphs Medusa and Shapeless. It rides on the point of the vanguard of the international female-directed horror revolution. This not only legitimizes the worth of the previously ghettoized horror genre, but it also highlights the ability horror has to drape flesh across the unseeable. That women directors are using this expressionistic method to show the dread females go through previously not shown or explored is no accident.
Garza Cervera takes the quiet horror route through most of the picture to great effect. Using small touches to amp up the atmosphere makes the shivering moments with the broken limbs all the more powerful. This also makes her blow-out, surreal set piece at the finale all the more impressive. The bean bag I was sitting on flew across the room. While secondary to the drama, the dread is developed into a cool witchcraft angle that fits both thematically and symbolically.
Garza Cervera has the perfect collaborator in actress Solian. The actor has to deliver on several levels for all the different perspectives her character has at various times. She’s exceptional and gets into some extreme, dark territory. While the horror show will draw a lot of attention, the real treat here is the queer punk drama, which is not seen too often. If I squinted, I swore I was looking at scenes from the long-awaited live-action movie adaptation of the comic book Love and Rockets. Huesera: The Bone Woman will take your conception of the limits of the horror genre and break every bone in its body.
"…will take your conception of the limits of the horror genre and break every bone in its body."