Director: Rigoberto Castañeda
Starring: Iliana Fox, Adrià Collado, Raúl Méndez, Carlos Aragon
Running Time: 103 minutes
Cinema Release Date: December 7 2007
With a plot revolving around a cursed highway, the dank sewers of Mexico City and the Mexican myth of La Llorona, also known as the legend of ‘the Weeping Woman’, KM 31 suggests a chilling tale that mixes Mexican mythology with a modern horror direction. Throw in a set of attractive twin girls with a psychic connection, a fair splash of gore and the ghosts of creepy kids – and sooth-saying old women – and you’re onto a winner right? Well, you’re close.
The film opens with the first of the twins, Agata (Fox), driving along a lonely road late at night. Following a series of unpleasant incidents, including a collision with a small child (that promptly vanishes once members of the authorities arrive) and a hit-and-run, she finds herself in hospital – in a deep coma – with both legs amputated. The rest of the film follows Catalina (also portrayed by Fox), Agata’s identical twin sister who has always felt inferior to her sibling. Through an apparent psychic connection, between Catalina and her comatose sister, she begins to feel the suffering of her sibling whilst experiencing visions and hearing sounds typically associated with haunting. Feeling that her sister is somehow trapped, Catalina takes it upon herself to investigate the apparently cursed stretch of road where many accidents have occurred. With the assistance of her Spanish ‘friend’ Nuno (Collado), her sister’s grieving partner Omar (Méndez) and a Mexican police investigator (Aragon) who has an obsession with the 31st Kilometre, Catalina explores the mythology of the La Llorona and, eventually, confronts the spirits that appear to be keeping her sister trapped between realms, as well as her guilt surrounding the untimely demise of her mother during childhood.
While a coupling of highway ghosts and Mexican mythology teemed with the uncomfortable pairing of physic twin sisters – with a turbulent family history – may seem like the recipe for an immersive and terrifying plot, it is somewhat difficult to focus on what is important in this film. Is it the myth of a woman drowning herself and her child during the Spanish colonisation of Mexico and the subsequent drifting of their souls? Is it the turbulent relationship of the psychic twins? Is it the subplot of the death of their mother when they were merely seven years of age? Is it the undeniable sexual tension between ‘best friends’ Nuno and Catalina, or Omar’s obvious attraction to his partner’s identical twin sister? With every other person encountered revealed to be a fantasma, it is easy to become distracted from the horror whilst trying to work out what the hell we’re supposed to be scared of. Amongst the indirectness of the plot, the relatively unoriginal key themes blended together is awkward and tired, everything portrayed has been seen many times before on the cinematic screen, just not necessarily amongst the other themes. Psychic twins meets Mexican legends meets highway ghosts meets suppressed mother-issues makes for exhausting yet familiar viewing.
However, visually and atmospherically, KM 31 is awe-inspiring, especially considering its relatively meagre budget of € 2,000,000. The effects and direction, especially the adventurous yet unlaboured use of angles and lighting, was extremely admirable and, had the plot been less muddled with a sharper, more direct angle, would have made the film an instant success! In terms of scares, it isn’t exactly scream-a-minute, however a cleverly maintained eerie atmosphere throughout makes for a chilling and visually impressive, not to mention shit-scary, finale. This, combined with note-worthy and capable performances from the cast of relative unknowns, makes the film a passable, if slightly forgettable, horror.
KM 31, with its scattered plot and slightly tired use of frequently regurgitated ghost-story themes, would have been a poor film if not for the outstanding direction by Castañeda, which makes it visually pleasing and, at times, very creepy. While it doesn’t exactly push any barriers in the horror genre, there are some truly sickening scenes that would turn the stomachs of even the hardiest of horror fans. For the direction and fear factor, it’s worth a watch. But don’t pay too much attention to the storyline as you’ve seen and heard it all before a dozen times over.