Shallow Grave
Dir: Danny Boyle
Star: Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1994
Format: DVD R2

After the untimely demise of their brand new flatmate, the strange Hugo (Keith Allen), Alex, (Ewan McGregor) Juliet, (Kerry Fox) and David (Christopher Eccleston) discover a suitcase absolutely full of money. Instead of reporting their new flatmate's death, they opt to keep the money, cover up Hugo's death and they each draw straws to dismember and mutilate his body (purely in the interests of inhibiting identification) before burying him in a shallow grave in the nearby woods. This is where things really start to go downhill very quickly, as a couple of heavies begin tearing up the town and killing people as they search for Hugo and their missing money. David, battling with his conscience goes all eccentric and moves into the attic, whilst Alex and Juliet go on a little spending spree.........

Remarkable and impressive debut from former television director, Danny Boyle. This chilling thriller centres around moral dilemma of "what would you do". The simple but intelligently put together story by John Hodge is like a psychological experiment, and at times plays out as such. Each character must make the appropriate decision and live with it, however they can whilst going through distinct personality changes. When you first meet the central characters they are arrogant, obnoxious and enjoying belittling and demeaning people for their own simpering and snide pleasure. You take an almost instant dislike to them, itching for them to get their just desserts and would most likely be more than happy to punch them repeatedly if you ever met them. By the end of the film, things are a lot different. This is by far, a much better crafted affair than the awful, pro drug crazed barrage of Trainspotting . Shallow Grave has a good soundtrack, excellent story, some invigorating direction by Boyle and some ledgable, credible performances by a good cast and a good ending, not to mention no damned druggies. A very cool film, dark and brooding. Not what I had expected, I have to admit and I was suitably impressed.

Despite some of the usual thriller cliches, Shallow Grave achieves a distinct "cut above the rest" status with some realistic characterisations, superb atmosphere and good pacing, laced with a drizzle of dark humour along the way. Boyle almost manages to maintain the momentum throughout, with some good exposition and some very good camera work. The direction is obviously influenced by greats such as Hitchcock and Kubrick allowing some interesting and unique moments. The photography is well arranged and the camera is well used, to good effect. There are some visually excellent set pieces captured here, ranging from lighting in the attic to depth of field around the claustrophobic flat. The direction steers away from overly graphic violence, relying instead upon some rather gruesome sound effects and coloured filters to suggest more than is actually depicted of the deceptively subtle violence. Boyle displays a distinct flair for this style and produces a film which appears more than the low budget thriller it is.

The relatively small ensemble cast provide some good performances and Ewan McGregor is suitably dislikable but brings a certain dynamic to the role. Christopher Eccleston gives perhaps his best performance, managing to avoid his usual sleepwalking through a role trick, as the psycho in the attic. The unnerving Keith Allen is woefully underused and needed a bigger role here as he is excellent as the dodgy psycho type that you wouldn't want to leave alone with any member of your family. Cool performance by the dour Ken Stott as a police inspector, with his usual dead pan manner he tends to steal the scenes.

Shallow Grave is not unfortunately a perfect film and it occasionally becomes rather convoluted, but it is an accomplished piece of British cinema and an unmissable watch.


What's a little murder among friends?


They went up there alive and came back down dead! Did you notice that? The difference, I mean: Alive. Dead. Dead. Alive, that sort of thing? It wasn't difficult to spot. He killed them both.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 1.85 : 1 Anamorphic reasonable transfer but a little grainy
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Pretty good but still ONLY stereo
Features Unimpressive menu
Theatrical trailer
Verdict Bit of a dissappointing transfer really. Too prone to grain in darker scenes and the sound surely deserved a 5.1. The complete lack of other extras doesn't help matters.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home