KM 31 (2007)
Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Iliana Fox, Adria Collado, Raui Mendez
Directed by Rigoberto Castaneda
Mexican horror has been laying dormant for a very long time, and for a while I was hoping it was just biding its time to make a huge comeback. So when I heard about KM 31, the first Mexican horror film in 15 years, the hope was there that this was it.
Sadly, it seems that the creative team behind KM 31 had the kind of budget they’d been waiting for to make a high quality film but didn’t want to run the risk of trying pretty much anything new or interesting. The film manages to borrow from all the boring J-horror and PG-13 crap that’s been stinking up our multiplexes seemingly forever now, even though the story at the film’s heart contains some nuggets of potential.
So what we have here is a tale of twins; well, in theory it is though we only actually see them together once. Anyway, they have a very strong psychic bond as some twins do, so when one of them, Agata, is hit by a car when she pulls over to try and help a kid she almost hit, her twin, Catalina, feels it immediately and goes to her rescue, all too late of course.
Agata is hospitalized for the rest of the film, but her boyfriend is insistent that she called saying she had almost hit a kid so the search begins for an injured child. Many jump scares and musically timed shocks then parade across the screen in a way of building/releasing tension, all of which come off as cheap and gimmicky as they do here.
An investigation of sorts into the spot where the sister was hit begins alongside the search for a mysterious child, specifically the Kilometer 31 marker on a highway in the middle of nowhere, and pretty soon Agata’s boyfriend, Omar, is being told by the cops to leave it alone, don’t go looking for trouble, blah blah. This scene comes almost out of nowhere and instantly establishes that the cop behind the investigation is a somewhat pretentious dick, full of cryptic warnings and veiled threats, another stereotype taken from Western and Eastern movies from the past decade or so.
Pretty soon the truth behind this one particular area of the highway is revealed, which is about the only cool and/or interesting aspect of KM 31 since it utilizes some old-school Mexican folklore tales as the backstory, but they just don’t do enough with it and actually manage to bastardize it with the US sensibilities that make the rest of the film feel like something you’ve already seen a thousand times before. It’s such a shame because the history of Mexico is so rich with creepy stories and potentially terrifying elements, and the filmmakers either chose not to utilize them or didn’t know how.
The acting throughout is actually solid; indeed, the lead actress is a soap opera star in Mexico, and this helps a lot of the interpersonal moments ring much truer than are usually the case. Though the conflict between the siblings' respective men, Omar and Nuno, comes across a bit forced at times, it does make sense why these two would be odd around one another. After all Omar’s girlfriend is now in a coma in the hospital, while her identical twin is running around perfectly fine. You can see why he might have some issues with sorting out his feelings.
Overall KM 31 is a very beautifully made film, and the budget is obviously bigger than anything else Mexico has seen for a while, but this is really its biggest downfall since you get the feeling they went with so many East/West standards of how to scare people in order to play it as safe as possible. Perhaps it will work well with less suspecting audiences, but horror fans should really give this one a pass.
2 1/2 out of 5