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Small murders between friends
on 12 July 2009
For those who have yet to see it, Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave (1994) is a British horror/thriller that contains more laugh-out-loud moments than many co-called comedies. It is a very well written story of three Edinburgh flat-mates who rent out their spare room to Keith Allen, only for him to die in his bed shortly afterwards, leaving behind a suitcase full of cash. The flat-mates eventually decide to keep the money and bury the body. They think the loot will enhance their lives - but it doesn't, instead their world becomes a living nightmare.
Many would expect Ewan McGregor to be the star of this film - giving his current status as a Hollywood A-lister, but in fact Christopher Eccleston acts everyone else off the screen. He's superb as David the mild chartered accountant who slowly descends into madness. The scene in which he threatens to put a man in a bin bag is simultaneously hilarious and chilling (it's worth owning the DVD for this one scene alone). There are many other great moments, including Cameron's revenge on Alex in a toilet cubicle.
There are however several gaps in the storyline - for example, the flatmates never consider the obvious possibility of hiding the money then reporting Hugo's death to the police, and it is never explained how the two bad guys traced Hugo's disappearance to the flat. The film may not be perfect, but it has definitely stood the test of time. And I think having a low budget works to the film's advantage, as it is very lean, with no unnecessary scenes. The running time is just under 90 minutes, which is about right for this film.
As for the DVD itself, there are no problems at all with the sound and picture quality. Although this DVD is a "Special Edition", the only extras are a commentary by Danny Boyle and a 29-minute BBC documentary called Digging Your Own Grave. The documentary is actually quite interesting. Whereas most "making ofs" are nothing more than a prolonged trailer or marketing device, Digging Your Own Grave does take us behind the scenes to show how the film was made. We get to see how the special effects were created, how the sets were built, we get to see actors rehearsing and producer Andrew Macdonald almost suffer a nervous breakdown as his film spirals over budget and over schedule and shady men in suits begin appearing on the set. I wish more DVDs contained documentaries of this calibre.
Interestingly, Danny Boyle has mentioned that the events in Trainspotting took place prior to those in Shallow Grave and Keith Allen's character was in fact the same person in both films.