Huesera (FANTASTIC) Shows Terrors of Motherhood in Society
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Michelle Garza Cervera
Writer: Michelle Garza Cervera, Abia Castillo
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Natalia Solián, Alfonso Dosal, Mayra Batalla
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival in 2022.
Valeria (Natalia Solián) is excited when she discovers that she is pregnant with her husband Raul (Alfonso Dosal). Overjoyed, the duo begin preparing for their baby. As Valeria progresses, she finds herself struggling to maintain that initial joy while she contends with the realities of motherhood and finds that something isn’t quite right. A chance encounter with an old flame Octavia (Mayra Batalla) reignites feelings Valeria thought were long buried. Things get even more complicated when Valeria starts taking on the roles associated with motherhood in her family, like babysitting and crib assembly. Her experiences only worsen in severity and frequency before she decides she must do something about it.
A hauntingly honest journey through the reservations of pregnancy, Huesera balances subtle horror with nuance and deliberation.
Huesera explores the idea of motherhood from the perspective of a new mother who is unsure of her desires to be a parent. As the film goes on, we learn that Valeria once lived a very wild and free youth, one that was punctured by the sudden death of her brother. This ignited her desire to remain close to family, despite her girlfriend at the time, Octavia, moving out of the city. Not only does Valeria do this out of a feeling that she needs to live up to her parent’s expectations of her brother, but out of a feeling to be something they want her to be. To her, this means repressing her sexuality and working to become a stay-at-home mom to a good man.
Her initial reaction of joy is gradually replaced by anguish. Valeria contends with pregnancy and the expectations set with it with resistance. This means kicking her hard habit of smoking, sipping water when her houseguests indulge in wine, and being pressured to give up the one hobby she enjoys: carpentry. It’s no wonder that she is struggling when she must give up so many pieces of herself to conform with what society expects a good mother to be and sometimes what is required of a mother.
The recurring motif of breaking bones is borne from the titular entity, something that appears from anxiety and breaks down its host. These expectations slowly wear her down, which is exactly what Huesera’s unnerving finale demonstrates. Valeria is quite literally forced to face her fears of motherhood and approach the ideas that threaten to break her, and other mothers, down to the bone. This is done in a simultaneously shocking and dazzling choreographed confrontation that is as uncomfortable as it is poetic.
Full of flashing lights and terrifying visions, the editing in Huesera adds to the ever-present dread of the story. It adds to the disorienting atmosphere of the film while seamlessly moving the story along by showcasing Valeria’s descent into madness. Recurring visuals of snapped bones and crunching sounds of broken fingers escalate the feelings of anxiety in Valeria. These little moments feel awful to her but there isn’t another person around her that can relate. It isn’t until the terrifying climax that these sounds take on an entirely new meaning when Valeria finally confronts her inner demons.
Natalia Solián does a phenomenal job portraying Valeria. Her nuanced take on a mother struggling with the realities of her life and choices allows the audience to sympathize with her plight and understand her better as she makes decisions that may not always be the best. Huesera is a dark yet hopeful film, and Solián’s care with Valeria makes it feel genuine.
Raw and complex, Huesera takes a familiar concept and injects much needed depth to it, specifically the conversation surrounding expecting mothers and their expectations on motherhood. Captivating in its approach to telling Valeria’s story, Huesera takes its time building on the idea that Valeria doesn’t want the life she has built for herself. The horror of shattered expectations and self-inflicted anxiety attacks come to life thanks the unique supernatural presence implemented in the film. Unique, haunting, and mesmerizing, Huesera is a slow burn spiritual horror film that aches to be placed on your radar.
Overall Score? 7/10