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Shallow Grave (1994)

What’s a little murder among friends?

Directed by:

Danny Boyle

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 93 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

Country: United Kingdom

I’ve had some pretty dodgy flatmates over the years. There was one bloke who wore his clothes in the shower to save time on washing them. And another who used to ask people to pay him to dump with the bathroom door open. But it’s fair to say the collection of Edinburgh roomies in ‘Shallow Grave’ go right off the weirdness scale.

There’s patient-hating doctor Juliet (Kerry Fox), her nerdy accountant boyfriend David (Christopher Eccleston), obnoxious up-himself journo Alex (Ewan McGregor) and, the most recent addition to the group, stubble-headed bug-eyed liberal Hugo (Keith Allen). When they find the reclusive Hugo lying dead on his bed (the reclusiveness and the fact that he’s dead aren’t mutually exclusive), and a stash of cash alongside him, the first three decide to keep the loot, bury the stiff in the woods, and hope for the best. What was it Rabbie Burns said about the best laid plans going tits up?

Danny Boyle’s big screen directorial debut is a nicely put-together little thriller, oozing that certain low-budget style that lesser helmsmen generally find impossible to get right. He increases the mystery and tension with near-Hitchcockian skill, turning what’s essentially a fairly contrived story into an impressive and highly-watchable slice of film noir.

The film’s only significant downfall, plotline aside, is its characters. Each of them are either dislikeable (McGregor, playing a complete bumwit), unbelievable (Eccleston turns from mild-mannered sack of nerves to murderous loft-dwelling lunatic) or both. It means that as viewers we’re left with nobody to relate to, side with, or even just not want to see bludgeoned to death.

Taken in context with how good the film is as a whole, though, such flaws are excusable. It’s hardly surprising Boyle went on to hit the big time with the likes of Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary and 28 Days Later.

It's Got: Billy Elliot’s dad (Gary Lewis) and that wee ginger guy off ‘Taggart’ (celebrity St Johnstone fan Colin McCredie) getting turned down as prospective future flatmates.

It Needs: A smaller flat. The place is massive! What do they need all that space for? It must cost them a fortune in Edinburgh, too.

DVD Extras Original theatrical trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

Young Adam

Summary

Tuck yourself in the loft and watch this little cracker in the dark. That’s if the cable on your DVD player will stretch that far. Otherwise you’re probably better off just watching it in the living room. Actually, it’s probably more comfortable there too.

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