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HELL'S HIGHWAY: KM31 aka KM 31: Kilometro 31

  Publicity Stills of
"Hell's Highway: KM31"
(Courtesy of Cathay-Keris Films)

In Spanish with English and Chinese Subtitles
Director: Rigoberto Castañeda
Cast: Iliana Fox, Adrià Collado, Raúl Méndez, Julián Álvarez, Carlos Aragon, Everardo Arzate
RunTime: 1 hr 46 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: NC-16 (Horror & Some Violence)

Opening Day: 27 November 2008


After the tragic death of their mother when they were children, twin sisters Agata and Catalina Hameran developed a special skill, a way of communicating without speaking, a “link” between them. After a mysterious accident on Kilometer 31, Agata falls into a coma. Catalina, thanks to their “link”, feels the pain and tragedy that her sister is going through at the time of the accident. Following a series of supernatural events, Catalina realizes that their “link” is stronger than ever and that her sister Agata is screaming for help from her unconscious state. Catalina is now determined to find out what really happened to her sister in order to help her wake up. Nuño, Agata’s long time friend, and Omar, Catalina’s boyfriend, agree to help her. But they soon find out that not only is Agata in a coma, but she is also trapped between reality and an ancient legend, the legend of La Llorona.

Movie Review:

Let's count the number of cliches - scary women, check, demonic kid, check, plot involving water, check, plot involving some incident from childhood, check, twin sisters, check, doors that open by themselves, check, voices calling out to you, check, white noise from television, check, and the list goes on.

Written and directed by Rigoberto Castaneda, this Mexican-Spanish production got riddled with cliche after cliche, though some may argue that it tried to incorporate some of the best atmospheric elements from Asian horror of late, then try to whip up something complex in order to impress. It might seem that Castaneda is a fan of Asian horror, and in this film, tried to pay homage to some of the brighter moments that define the genre.

Unfortunately, he had forgotten one crucial point, that everything still boiled down to the strength of the story. Technically, one can't find fault with the film, because it was gorgeously shot with above average production values. The special effects were nifty, and credit must go to the make up artists for some really disturbing images of wounds and the look of the phantasms and the dead. Given that the inaugural 3D festival in Singapore had just past, there were enough moments in this film to have made the festival proud, should they be translated or done in 3D instead. I'd think that most in the audience would get jolted out of their seats if you have spectral ghouls charging right at you.

So technical strength aside, KM31 had its brakes applied throughout the journey, that there was something holding the story back from developing fully. So what was delivered, was a half-baked plot that needed more time to be fully fleshed out. There were subplots thrown around at various times that don't get addressed adequately. Take for instance, the potential for a major blow up between the relationships of Catalina (Iliana Fox), her beau Nuno (Adria Collado) and her twin sister Agata's beau Omar (Raul Mendez). There's plenty of room here for some seriously screwed up exploration whether one would fall in love with a twin just because she looks the same, or have harboured secret thoughts of furthering the relationship behind a comatose sister's back. The story teased with the thought, then decided to retract and have everything resolved fine and dandy.

Or what's with the suggestion of more than meets the eye with Catalina and Agata's mother, with dalliance on some hanky-panky involved in what was either a drowning, or a resurrection from a bathtub (ok I am making fun of the scene here). But while other films just blatantly screamed and tie all their loose ends in verbatim, KM31 decided it was pretty cool to leave these ends alone, adding to unsatisfactory conclusions, because you'd wonder what's the point given the ending headed in its decided direction with nary any involvement or significance from this.

Scenes like these creep their way into the film just because it would be cool to have them, so that sound and visual effects could be given an exercise, but do they add value to the story? No, and they probably got in the way of progressing the narrative. Which of course frustrates given that when stripped down of these unnecessary bells and whistles, the core is pretty much a very ordinary tale with a very ordinary plot development, spiced up by the occasional scare every now and then, depending on your threshold that would make you jump.

It stills makes for a decent horror movie though, but expect nothing great since the overall story just underwhelms.

Movie Rating:

(Perpetually stuck in 2nd gear throughout)

Review by Stefan Shih


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. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

. Shutter (2004)

. The Absent DVD (2006)



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