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  • TBC
  • Horror, Mystery
  • 2006
  • 103 mins

Km 31

Km 31


Rigoberto Castañeda 's eerie debut chiller offers lost highways, renewed grudges and a grief that never dies


A young woman (Fox) is driving along a lonesome highway at night, weeping, when she has a head-on collision with a small boy (Mateos) scuttling across the road. She makes a panicky phone call to her boyfriend Omar (Méndez) before realising the boy is not as dead as she thought. Then a speeding truck ploughs into her.

In the scene that immediately follows, we see (or think we see) the same young woman having a vision of the accident, and running frantically to the spot - Km 31 - shouting "No, my sister!". This is Catalina, identical twin to the now severely injured Agata. Writer-director Castañeda confounds identities in a film where the byways between past and present, legend and reality, psychology and the supernatural, the living and the dead, all become hopelessly congested.

Convinced that her comatose sister is begging her for help, Catalina keeps returning to Km 31. Her Spanish friend Nuño (Collado) is along for the ride, as is Omar - despite his unresolved feelings towards Catalina and warnings from the policeman Ugalde (Aragón) that the stretch of road has a haunted history. A mysterious old woman (Huertas) reveals a myth about the ghost of a native woman from early colonial times forever lamenting the death of her twin sons - but Catalina will also find answers much closer to home, as her mental health worsens.

Km 31 is neither the first nor probably the last film to be based on the popular Mexican myth of 'La Llorona' or 'The Crying Woman' - indeed Bernadette Santistevan's US-produced The Cry (2007) was made at roughly the same time. Km 31 is, however, the first Mexican horror film to be shot in the last 20 years (apart from Guillermo Del Toro's genre-busting Cronos). If box-office figures are anything to go by, Castañeda has succeeded in his stated aim to produce a south-of-the-border ghost story that is "100 per cent commercial." Km 31 has become the highest grossing Mexican movie of the last five years, and the third most seen movie in the history of Mexican cinema.

Key to this success is its unashamedly derivative quality. Castañeda claims to have written his script before Hideo Nakata's Ringu (1998) or Takashi Shimizu's Ju-On: The Grudge (2003) were released, but this tale of two sisters still bears all the hallmarks (in both visual and narrative terms) of recent Asian horror, as well as ghosts whose watery appearance is familiar from Del Toro's The Devil's Backbone (2001).

None of this need be a problem in a film concerned with the influence of the past on the present - but what is less excusable is the film's confusing over-determination. The irrational and the unexplained are essential elements to ghost stories, but here there are just too many narrative threads to tie or leave untied. The ending, far from being satisfyingly uncanny, seems arbitrary. This is a simple enough story, over-cluttered with unnecessary and often irrelevant detail. Perhaps Catalina's second sight - or at least a second viewing - is required to fathom how it all hangs together.

This is, however, technically very accomplished filmmaking, with creepy sets and astonishing special effects, and Castañeda's screenplay drip-feeds its revelations, creating a sustained sense of eeriness.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Iliana Fox, Raul Mendez, Luisa Huertas, Adrià Collado, Carlos Aragón, Mikel Mateos
  • Director: Rigoberto Castañeda
  • Screen Writer: Rigoberto Castañeda
  • Producer: Billy Rovzar, Fernando Rovzar, Julio Fernández
  • Photographer: Alejandro Martinez
  • Composer: Carles Cases

In a nutshell

Mexico's first ghost story in decades is slick and well-crafted, but fails to distinguish itself or find its way to a satisfying ending.

by Anton Bitel

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