The Movie Waffler New Release Review - HUESERA: THE BONE WOMAN | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - HUESERA: THE BONE WOMAN

Huesera: The Bone Woman review
A pregnant young woman is menaced by visions of a malevolent demon.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Michelle Garza Cervera

Starring: Natalia Solián, Alfonso Dosal, Mayra Batalla, Mercedes Hernández, Sonia Couoh, Aida López

Huesera: The Bone Woman poster

Arguably only romantic comedies boast more female protagonists than horror movies. There are several reasons why horror filmmakers favour women in leading roles. Sometimes it's a simple case of exploitation, but the reasoning is generally that viewers will sympathise more readily with a woman in peril than a man in the same position. That might seem a tad patronising, but even the many women filmmakers that have emerged in the genre in recent years have continued the trend of female leads. It's no surprise then that many horror movies have been centred around expectant mothers, for when is a woman more vulnerable than while carrying a child?

Huesera: The Bone Woman review

There are essentially two types of pregnant protagonists in horror movies: those who fear they're carrying something evil inside them and those who believe something evil is after their child. Huesera: The Bone Woman, the feature debut of director Michelle Garza Cervera (co-writing with Abia Castillo), ostensibly falls into the latter category, but in more subtextual fashion it also leans into the former. Its heroine, Valeria (Natalia Solián), is at once menaced by an evil presence while pregnant and also grows to fear that the child inside her may end up ruining her life.

After trying for a while, Valeria and her hubby Raúl (Alfonso Dosal) receive the news that their apartment is soon to experience the pitter patter of tiny feet. Valeria seems delighted, but we soon start to question her motives in becoming a mother. A dinner with her family sees her mocked for her apparent unsuitability for motherhood, with her sister expressing puzzlement at how Valeria, who never previously showed any interest in any children, has suddenly gone all maternal. It appears Valeria is simply desperate to conform to societal expectations. This seems largely inspired by an attempt to escape her rebellious past, detailed in a flashback that sees a teenage Valeria with cropped, dyed blonde hair engaged in a lesbian romance with the free-spirited Octavia (Mayra Batalla). Following a chance encounter with Octavia, Valeria ends up bedding her old flame once more, bringing her decision to become a mother into further doubt.

Huesera: The Bone Woman review

As if all this wasn't enough for Valeria to contend with, she's only haunted by a spirit that initially takes the form of a woman she witnesses making a suicidal leap from a neighbouring balcony. Assuming the woman has died upon hitting the ground, Valeria is horrified to see her spring to life, despite having bones protruding form her legs. A hysterical Valeria fetches Raul, but wouldn't you know it, there's no sign of the injured woman when he looks over the balcony. This sets Raul up as the classic male partner in movies of this ilk, initially believing his wife is simply showing signs of stress but later worrying that she's taken a psychotic turn that might harm his expectant child.

The titular spirit is a creepy creation, and Cervera is wise enough to keep it out of plain sight for most of the movie. We glimpse it scuttling in the background, blurred through frosted windows, or beckoning menacingly at a distance. Cervera employs some clever compositions to generate the maximum amount of suspense. One particularly impressive setup sees the camera look down a flight of stairs as Valeria explores one floor while the scuttling skeletal spirit makes its way into her apartment one floor above.

Huesera: The Bone Woman review

In simple horror terms, Huesera: The Bone Woman doesn't stray too far from the conventions of this sub-genre. We have the hysterical heroine, the hapless hubby, the ostracisation of friends and family, a visit to a witch, and of course the climactic battle of good and evil (rendered here in a unique dream state twist). It's what's going on beyond the supernatural scares that makes Cervera's movie stand on its own. A simple truth rarely expressed by movies is that many women simply aren't interested in motherhood. It becomes clear Valeria is one such woman, but the movie doesn't punish her for her actions, even when she makes one final decision that will likely see her receive scorn from many female viewers. Opening with a striking drone shot of a giant statue of that symbol of patriarchal womanhood, the Virgin Mary, Cervera's film questions the compatibility of Mexico's conservative society with contemporary female wants and desires. In this way it would make for a fitting thematic double bill with Amat Escalante's The Untamed.

Huesera: The Bone Woman
 is on Shudder from May 12th.

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