[Tribeca Film Festival Review] HUESERA
Poster designed by Adam Maida / Maida Studio
Valeria and her husband, Raúl, are a young couple who are anxiously trying to have their first baby. Their whole extended family prays for a baby for the couple, it’s what they want more than anything. So Valeria (Natalia Solián) and Raúl (Alfonso Dosal) are ecstatic when they find out they will become parents. The couple is moved to tears as they view their first baby’s fetal ultrasound, but Valeria is confused: strangely enough, she can’t glimpse the baby on the monitor.

The young mother-to-be is forced to confront her past, as she begins to have unexplainable visions. She starts to daydream about her ex-girlfriend, Octavia (Mayra Batalla), finding herself drawn away from the life that awaits her upon motherhood. Even as she gazes at her future baby’s crib, bathed in a golden glow of sunlight, Valeria is haunted by her rebellious past.

HUESERA marks the debut of director Michelle Garza Cervera‘s first feature-length film, following shorts like Abismal, The Original, and Falha Comum. With Cervera’s clear vision for the story, she explores themes of parenthood, queer identity, and family ties.

The story is a modern take on an old tale of “La Huesera,” or “Bone Woman.” This supernatural being takes the form of a woman who haunts the desert, collecting wolf bones until she has enough of them to create her own being.

Valeria butts heads with the idea of motherhood right from the beginning. At one of her first pregnancy checkups, her doctor instructs her to give up her passion, woodworking, due to the strong chemicals making Valeria’s pregnancy symptoms worse. She transforms her woodshop into the baby’s room. Then, her husband Raúl becomes suddenly averse to intimacy, afraid of hurting the baby growing in Valeria’s body. Despite Valeria’s enthusiasm for motherhood, she clashes with her family members, who insist that she’s not really a “kid person.” The baby has transformed her life before it’s even born.

You can see the strong facade Valeria has to put up, with Natalia Solián’s subtle expressions saying what she can’t speak aloud. The expanding dark bags under her eyes throughout the movie add to the weariness and pressure Valeria is feeling. The performances by all involved in her family are especially great, with strong performances from Sonia Quoh, Aida López, and Mercedes Hernández.

Watching HUESERA in theaters is a viscerally scary experience – it isn’t every day that a movie can tap into that sense of primal terror that makes you want to bolt outside into the sunlight. HUESERA really got under my skin.

Michelle Garza Cervera’s HUESERA is absolutely terrifying without using cheap tricks or gimmicks. Instead, it lulls you into relaxation with its down-to-earth realism, then gives you whiplash, shattering that quiet reality. My guess is that this movie will polarize audiences. There’s the family drama aspect that pulls you into HUESERA, so even viewers who don’t get quite as scared as I did will find it’s a compelling watch anyway. For me, HUESERA is already among my favorite horror movies of 2022.

HUESERA had its world premiere at Tribeca Festival on June 9, 2022. The film will be released theatrically in North America by XYZ Films following its global film festival run.

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