Justin Lockwood says Huesera is a bracing study of a relatable and fully realized woman with impressive performances and emotional resonance.
Courtesy of XYZ Films
Huesera (2022), Mexican director Michelle Garza Cervera's debut feature, is a confident and often entrancing queer horror film. The Tribeca Festival Jury awarded it the Nora Ephron Award and Best New Narrative Director at this year’s festival. The film, co-written by Cervera and Abia Castillo, follows Valeria (Natalia Solián), an expectant mother. Valeria has seemingly abandoned her punk youth (when she had a girlfriend, Octavia) for an idyllic life with Raúl (Alfonso Dosal). There are signs that Valeria feels ambivalent, though: her chain-smoking (which Raúl doesn’t approve of), her fraught interactions with her toxic mother (Aida López) and sister, and her bad habit of cracking her knuckles.
After a horrifying vision, she becomes ever more convinced that dark supernatural forces are after her and her unborn child– while simultaneously wrestling with her lingering feelings for her former girlfriend Octavia (Mayra Batalla). Two well-realized flashback sequences provide insight into how Valeria came to be. Nearly everyone in her life seems to think she’s losing it, except for her Aunt Isabel (Mercedes Hernández) and Isabel’s circle of friends and fellow practicing witches, including Ursula (Martha Claudia Moreno).
A film involving pregnancy anxiety is apt to be compared to Rosemary’s Baby (1968), the benchmark of pregnancy horror. Still, Huesera resists such easy categorization, thanks to its distinct cultural milieu, honest exploration of queer identity, and the astonishing performance by Solián. Her physicality adds to the film’s supernatural elements, and her commanding range of emotion makes the movie work.
Valeria goes through the wringer—it must have been an arduous shoot for Solián—and we believe every second of her experiences thanks to the sensational, but never showy, performance. Dosal and López provide strong supporting portrayals of Raúl and Octavia, and Solián has believable chemistry with both. Cervera doesn’t skimp on the horror—there are unsettling visuals and very creepy moments—but Huesera is a bracing study of a relatable and fully realized woman and her journey to discover who she is and what she needs.
Huesera premiered at the Tribeca Festival on June 9, 2022.