For her first feature, co-writer/director Michelle Garza Cervera taps into the horrors of impending (and eventually, actualized) motherhood in Huesera, a gripping horror story about a young woman who is being endlessly tormented once she becomes pregnant after years of trying to start a family. Maternal fears have been explored numerous times throughout the history of genre storytelling, but I think how Cervera is able to marry this theme with Mexican folklore brings about a truly unique perspective that heightens the horror that runs rampant throughout this story that was written by both Cervera and Abia Castillo.
Huesera starts off with Valeria (Natalia Solián) making a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Guadalupe statue with her mother (Aida López) to pray as she and her husband Raúl (Alfonso Dosal) have been trying to start a family to no avail. Their trip seemingly works as Valeria finds out soon after that she is finally pregnant, and she’s initially excited to begin to prepare for the arrival of their new bundle of joy. But as Valeria’s pregnancy rolls on, she begins to experience an onslaught of horrifying visions - neighbors jumping to their deaths, ominous figures lurking about, and even creepy entities trying to inflict bodily harm on her - and no one around seems to believe Valeria’s concerns that there is something very evil trying to harm her and her baby. And once she gives birth, Valeria hopes that the horrors of her pregnancy are behind her. But once she realizes that the destructive forces are still after them, it’s up to Valeria to find a way to escape the darkness that threatens to envelope her life before it's too late for both her and her baby.
While Huesera is most certainly focused primarily on how pregnancy and becoming a mother can be a terrifying experience, I think some of the other themes that both Cervera and Castillo explore in their script are almost even more fascinating, as we see Valeria reconcile the life she used to life and the life she almost seems forced to be living presently. Through flashbacks, we find out that Valeria used to run around with a group of punks and that she was in a rather serious relationship with another woman named Octavia (Mayra Batalla) who Valeria ended up cutting ties with in order to live up to the standards of her traditional family.
One night, Valeria ends up crossing paths with Octavia, and that encounter stirs up feelings within her, where it’s obvious that she’s realziing that the life that she is living now with Raul is built upon a foundation of lies. In stories about impending motherhood, it’s not unusual to see a narrative explore how that transition means that parents have to give up parts of their lives in order to embark on this new phase. But with Valeria in Huesera, it turns out that she already gave up so much more just to become the woman that her family wanted her to be, and as she contends with her new responsibilities of being a parent, it’s awoken something deep inside her that she clearly spent years trying to find a way to suppress, which is a perspective we don’t often seen explored in films of this same ilk.
As far as the performances go, Solián is a force of nature in Huesera and she pushes herself here in so many different directions as her character continues to spiral deeper and deeper into some rather dark places. Everyone else is great here too, but I genuinely fell in love with Valeria’s aunt Isabel, played by Mercedes Hernández, who provides the character with some much-needed empathy amidst everyone else who wants nothing but to paint Valeria as someone who is suffering from hysterics and who is unfit to become a mother in the first place.
The scares might be on the slight side, but the storytelling in Huesera does a great job of taking a familiar concept and approaching it from a perspective that we don’t get nearly enough of, and that alone was enough to make me appreciate the cinematic magic that Cervera was able to conjure up with her debut feature. The film’s soundtrack is also excellent and I absolutely loved the cinematography from DP Nur Rubio Sherwll who does an excellent job of finding ways to marry realism with hyperrealism in a way that feels completely seamless. Great work from all involved, and I look forward to whatever nightmares Cervera wants to unleash on horror fans next.
Movie Score: 3.5/5