Eerie and gruesome, Huesera is a bold addition to the maternal horror genre.
Initially thrilled to learn that she’s pregnant, Valeria (Natalia Solián) grows increasingly ambivalent toward motherhood. While her husband Raúl (Alfonso Dosal) gets to carry on as normal, Valeria’s life is turned upside down. On top of the physical symptoms of pregnancy—themselves a fruitful source of body horror—the world is determined to compress Valeria into a soft, pastel-hued role of placid maternity.
Director: Michelle Garza Cervera
Set in contemporary Mexico City, this mature and thoroughly scary horror flick explores a cursed pregnancy, as expentant mother Valeria finds herself haunted by a disturbing entity – and struggles with the oppressive societal expectations for pregnant women.
To prepare for the baby, she must remodel her carpentry workshop into a nursery, metaphorically subsuming her old career and identity. Meanwhile, her relatives critique her awkwardness with children, and Raúl downplays her encroaching feelings of fear and dread. Something is following her; an entity that others can’t see. A faceless woman with broken, splintering bones, echoing Valeria’s compulsive habit of cracking her knuckles. Her pregnancy, it seems, is cursed.
Building on the genre defined by Rosemary’s Baby in the 1960s, director Michelle Garza Cervera blends feminist commentary with folkloric horror. Valeria’s demonic stalker is at once a very real monster, an allegory for the terrors of new motherhood, and a potential symptom of prepartum psychosis.
Her husband is a more insidious problem—not a misogynistic villain, but a passive, unwitting enforcer of traditional gender roles.
Living in a trendy apartment in contemporary Mexico City, they seem at first to be a perfectly happy couple. Yet as Valeria’s pregnancy progresses, Raúl ceases to see her as an individual. He assumes that she’ll be happy as a full-time mom. He ignores the warning signs. When she wakes up in terror and reports someone (something) breaking into the house, he dismisses her fears. After all, anxiety is normal during pregnancy. And the more erratic Valeria becomes, the less he listens to her opinions. Instead, she turns to other women for help: her unmarried aunt, and her ex-girlfriend.
Valeria’s queerness is invisible in the first half of the film. We get the impression that while Raúl knows about her previous relationship with a woman, he views this as a thing of the past, to be tacitly forgotten. This erasure goes hand-in-hand with Valeria’s evolution from rebellious youth to conventional motherhood—a transformation that feels more and more oppressive by the day.
Natalia Solián is fantastic in the lead role, simultaneously under threat and subtly threatening. Unlike a lot of pregnancy/motherhood horror movies where the protagonist is protecting both herself and her child from outside forces, we don’t necessarily root for Valeria to take care of a baby. A bold choice even in such a feminist subgenre, because there’s still resistance against depicting women struggling with (or rejecting) the pressures of motherhood. Michelle Garza Cervera gives us plenty to chew on in that regard, wrapped up in an expertly scary package that fully embraces its horror genre roots.