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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.
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on 18 August 2010
The first film directed by the highly acclaimed Danny Boyle, Shallow Grave is a prime example of what makes Boyle such a success, however it is in this success that Shallow Grave is regrettably overshadowed by much of Boyle's other work, in particular Trainspotting due to it being the immediate successor.

The plot of Shallow Grave is undecidedly basic: three friends find their new flatmate dead in his room alongside a stash of questionably obtained money. Unwilling to surrender their loot by turning over the body to the police, the three opt to hide the body and keep their spoils to themselves. I won't disclose the rest in case I spoil it, but the truth is that the plot drives secondary to the characters, who are at once as fascinating and morbid as ever the story could be. It is in the minds of the protagonists and the tangled relationships they share that the film really shines.

The three main characters are introduced at once as being wicked and exclusive, displayed through their rampant cruelty as they make a game out of humiliating potential flat-mates. It is credit to McGregor that his obnoxious journalist, Alex, is difficult to dislike despite being the most forceful and sadistic of the trio, earning favour through his sharp wit and unrelenting charisma. The real story of Shallow Grave, however, is told through the degeneration of the docile and quiet accountant, David (Eccleston), as he fails to come to terms with the atrocity of their crime and falls foul to chronic paranoia, eventually becoming a recluse. The group dynamic is also an undeniably major part, for in the beginning the characters are shown to be extremely tight-knit, but the incident irreversibly drives them apart, forcing fickle alliances, torn apart by selfishness and fear.

Truly, Shallow Grave stands out because under its simple premise, lie deep and complex characters with whom the watcher is compelled to adore, pity and ultimately despise as they follow the characters from the start through to their retribution. Shallow Grave feels raw and basic, but in this it finds itself; there is no doubt that it was restricted by budgetary constraints, almost the entireity of the film takes place in the characters' Edinburgh flat, however by taking away all the unnecessary, it boils down to being a Aesop's fable style story of the impact of greed on the psyche and represents one of the finest examples of British cinema.
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on 1 October 2011
this is a watchable movie which will surely engage your viewing, however the main message (understood to be "to which extent can you trust your best friends?") is somewhat diluted by excessive blood scenes and violence. If these two elements had been turned down a bit, the movie would have gained depth in my opinion. Acting is good, equally by all three main characters, which equally turn out not particularly pleasant. The bottom line, materialism driven by possessing a lot of money, so typical of American movies, unfortunately is obvious and not particularly educational - I wish some other trigger had been found to kick start the spiral within the three mates find themselves tangled with. Perhaps 3 stars are a tight score, but 4 would be too many.
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on 28 December 2015
One of the most important British films of the last three decades. Set the standard. Great object lesson in low-budget, casting, set-building, use of lenses and slick pay-off. Ewan McGregor's finest. Danny Boyle's, too? Interesting that so few followed and took up some of the clues Boyle left behind. Astonishing when it first came out.
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on 18 February 2018
i watched trainspotting recently and boyle mentioned this in the extras and added it to my list. as good as i remember. the extras were good too. compelling viewing. tight script to keep u engaged by such otherwise unlikable people.
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on 1 June 2017
Great black humour suspense romp - just brilliant performances from Allan, Ecclestone and McGregor, I think before they were famous . Still as entertaining now in 2017
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on 30 August 2017
They called it a dark comedy, not very funny but original and entertaining in a disturbing kinda way.
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on 8 March 2017
saw this at a good price and remembered watching it when it was first released. Still as good.
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on 27 May 2017
Old movie that I currently rented recently. Just as good the first time around, especially as I couldn't remember the ending!!!
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on 5 February 2018
Wasn't the best!!
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