Oct 28

Forgotten Films: Shallow Grave (1994)

Before great films are made even the best directors start small. What separates the mediocre from the true masters is an ability to wow an audience armed only with a small budget and some smart techniques. This is no exception with Danny Boyle, before he was a household name and long before Slumdog Millionare and 28 Days later he had a small modest budget thriller set in Dublin called Shallow Grave.

Danny Boyle has a very unique style of film making, his obsession has and always will be about taking concept films and changing the rules. With 28 Days Later he changed the rules of zombies, with The Beach he made us rethink our perceptions on paradise and Shallow Grave he reset the bar for physiological horror.

Shallow grave follows three friends (Ewan McGregor and Christopher Ecleston and Kerry Fox) who start the film searching for a new flat mate. After some odd (though very funny) interviews the boys find a quiet man who moves in, locks his door and disappears. The film seems harmless, until the trio check in on their new roomy to find him dead with a very large sum of cash on him. Now those that have seen Sam Rami’s “A Simple Plan” will be noticing some similarities here but fear not , this is not just a Euro remake.

The three decide after much debate to dispose of the body and keep the cash, this is where film starts to change it’s tone. Similar to A Simple Plan, the film spirals into moral chaos from here, but at a much faster pace with much more alarming consequences. The very depth of the human soul is put on trial as ego, guilt, greed, lust, shame and self preservation eat at the three friends with increasing intensity bringing on some quite spectacular results. All three leads deserve huge credit too as the performances are staggeringly effective (Christopher Ecleston is at his best in this film) and Boyle does a great job of dragging them kicking and screaming through this excruciating experience.

The real power in this film lies in the way it keeps you focused and interested even though a majority of the film is shot inside the flat. The story and characters keep you immersed at even the slowest points of the film and clever camera work make the flat feel a lot bigger than it actually is.

The film ends strong leaving you riding the end of your seat right up to it’s conclusion. It is a hard watch and will challenge even the strong stomached film watcher, not from gore but an uncomfortable sense of realism to the story. After it’s all finished and the credits roll, you may feel a bit uneasy and don’t be surprised if you find yourself staring at friends and family with uneasy paranoia. This one is a must watch for cinema fiends.

– Josh