KM 31

December 3, 2007

km31.jpg

RELEASED: December 7th 

 The third most watched movie in the history of Mexican cinema makes its way to our sunny shores this month. While KM 31 is not the seasonal Christmas fuzziness that dominates the box office this time of year, this ghost-ridden shocker certainly deserves to be seen down our neck of the woods. It’s on a limited release but it’s coming to Nottingham, so take advantage.

The film opens with a nasty road ‘accident’ on a dark stretch of highway in which Agata somewhat miraculously escapes with her life. But not her legs, sadly, and the strange circumstances of the incident are forgotten as she slips into a coma. Her identical twin sister Catalina (who found her at the scene through some crafty twin-telepathy) thinks there’s something fishy about the whole event. Agata ran down a young boy before being hit herself, but his body is nowhere to be seen. Cue ominious music!

What begins as a simple spook story soon becomes a twisted web of secrets and clues as Catalina tries to figure out what happened to her sister. There’s a paper-thin romantic sub-plot of course, but the script (by director Rigoberto Castaneda) is tight enough to avoid too much Saw-like tackyness. There’s obviously an eerily calm old lady who knows everything and reveals nothing, a lot of dark shapes scuttling around in the forest and lots of voices-in-the-head-type stuff. As far as new-age suspense horror goes, there’s little originality here.

What helps KM 31 stand out is its style. There may be lots of hyperspeed cuts of gruseome images a la The Ring and Requiem For a Dream, but the cinematography is stripped to the bare bones: neat, slick and showing off some very cunning camera moves. A standout shot is the constant 360 degree rotation as time passes at the scene of the crash, new characters and vehicles appearing each time. 

The special effects are used sparingly too, which works well. Like most contemporary horror flicks, this is more about what isn’t seen than what is- Hitchcock’s Psycho is still classic proof that the audience’s imagination is the most powerful tool in thriller.

The Spanish language with English subtitles offers the simple treat that made Pan’s Labyrinth all the more quirky and mysterious, and enough time is spent fleshing out the handful of key characters for us to worry about what’s going to grab them next. Though the plot gets messy towards the conclusion, like every ill-advised car on the KM 31 everything rattles along at hazardous speeds. The final ten minutes sees the terror level raised ten-fold, and just when it all looks wrapped up, the dying moments offer a genuinely unexpected shock.

More effective as a psychological mystery than a thoroughbred horror, KM 31 is nevertheless an engaging slice of creepiness and a strong visual acheivement. And its nice to see ghosties, ghoulies and the neglected cinematic goldmine of the spirit world back in business. Haven’t we had enough groin-related torture?

THE CRUNCH

3 / 5  naked children flattened                    

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