The only applicant that fits is Hugo (Keith Allen). The next day, they find him naked on his bed, overdosed and with a suitcase full of money nearby. They could call the police. Or they could cut off his hands, feet and teeth, and bury the body in the woods. Only one would thrust a thriller.
This being such a film, trust has to fall and paranoia has to rise. One of the three moves into the attic with the money. Another buys a one-way ticket to Brazil. The other notices a stack of newspapers weighs the same as a suitcase of cash.
Shallow Grave was the debut of director Danny Boyle, writer John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald, who would go onto make Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and other highly regarded films.
The story and characters are familiar and unlikable. We can smell the violence and blood from the start and know such a story can’t end on a good note. It’s also hard to pull for Alex, David and/or Juliet, who are all employed and far from struggling. They steal for no real reason other than to splurge on ugly jewels and video cameras.
But there’s something about it. It has a vicious sense of humor, with a few dozen great lines (mostly given to Alex), and McGregor, Eccleston and Fox have a great chemistry. It’s a dark, amusing movie, not worthy of being in the shadow of Trainspotting.
Audio commentary with screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald: In this track, recorded in 2012 for this release, Hodge and Macdonald reminisce about the making of the film. Some details from Boyle’s track are covered, but overall there is a wealth of information that fans will enjoy hearing.
Interviews (28:55): Recorded in 2012, these interviews with actors Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox and Ewan McGregor have the trio discussing Shallow Grave and how it played a role in their careers.
Video Diary (8:58): This brief piece was shot by Andrew Macdonald and brother Kevin (who would go on to make Touching the Void, The Last King of Scotland and more) at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1992, as they sought finances and a cast for Shallow Grave.
Digging Your Own Grave (29:48) is a 1994 documentary directed by Kevin Macdonald. Using footage shot during the making of Shallow Grave, the half-hour doc offers behind-the-scenes footage of pre-production planning and on-set filming. This is a worthwhile watch for fans and a great addition to the disc.
Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a booklet featuring an essay titled “A Film Called Cruel” by critic Philip Kemp.