US release poster
|Directed by||Danny Boyle|
|Produced by||Andrew Macdonald|
|Written by||John Hodge|
|Music by||Simon Boswell|
|Edited by||Masahiro Hirakubo|
|Distributed by||Gramercy Pictures
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
|Box office||$19.8 million (worldwide)|
Shallow Grave is a 1994 British black comedy crime film that marked the cinematic directorial debut of Danny Boyle with an original screenplay by John Hodge. The film also provided starring roles for the then relatively little-known actors Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston and Kerry Fox.
David Stephens (Christopher Eccleston), a chartered accountant, Juliet Miller (Kerry Fox), a physician, and Alex Law (Ewan McGregor), a journalist, share a flat in Edinburgh. Needing a new flatmate, they interview several applicants in a calculatedly cruel manner, amusing themselves at the applicants' expense before finally offering the room to the mysterious Hugo (Keith Allen). Shortly after Hugo moves in, the trio find him dead in his room with a large suitcase full of money. They agree to keep the death a secret and the money for themselves and to bury the body in the woods after removing the hands and feet to prevent identification should it be found. They draw lots and David is given the gruesome and traumatising task of dismembering the corpse, while Juliet disposes of the hands and feet in her hospital's incinerator.
Unknown to the three friends, Hugo is being sought by a pair of violent men who are torturing and murdering informants as they follow Hugo's trail. The flat below Alex, David, and Juliet's is broken into, causing them much apprehension and anxiety. The break-in also draws the attention of the police, who are surprised when the three deny that they ever had a fourth flatmate. While Juliet and Alex spend part of the money to 'feel better', David's fears explode into full-blown paranoia. He hides the suitcase of money in the attic, and begins living there, drilling holes in the attic floor to watch the living space below. The relationship between the three becomes increasingly strained and distrustful, with undertones of sexual tension and rivalry.
The men trailing Hugo break into the trio's flat and assault Alex and Juliet until they reveal where the money is. As the men enter the dark attic, David, who has been lying there in wait, kills both of them with a hammer. David returns to the woods to dispose of the bodies. Alex and Juliet become more worried than ever about David's mental state and David becomes worried that the two are conspiring against him. Meanwhile, the police are already circling in the form of Detective Inspector McCall (Ken Stott) and Detective Constable Mitchell (John Hodge). Juliet, hoping to flee the country, secretly buys a plane ticket to South America, but she also seduces David to get at the money. Matters come to a head after the bodies are discovered in their shallow graves and Alex is sent by his newspaper to cover the story. He returns to find Juliet and David have reached an understanding about their shared plans that excludes him. That night, Alex, now fearing for his life, tries to secretly phone the police inspector in charge of the case, but he is interrupted by David and Juliet leaving. The doorstep altercation quickly escalates into a murderous triangular fight. David reveals he knows Juliet's secret plan to betray them and attacks her. In the scuffle, David stabs Alex in the chest but is killed by Juliet before he can finish Alex off.
With David dead, Juliet tells Alex he can't come with her. She then forces the knife even deeper into Alex's torso, pinning him to the floor, before fleeing to the airport with the suitcase of money. When she arrives at the airport, however, she discovers that she has been tricked: the suitcase is filled not with money but with hundreds of headline clippings about the triple grave taken from Alex's newspaper. Devastated, with no possessions except her air ticket, and knowing that she will soon be wanted for murder, Juliet boards the plane. The police arrive at the flat to find Alex bleeding heavily and pinned to the floor. The camera pans down to reveal that Alex has hidden the missing bundles of cash under the floorboards.
- Kerry Fox as Juliet Miller: A spirited and mysterious doctor, who is constantly being courted by different men, many of whom repeatedly call the flat trying to speak to her. Despite this, she also appears to be in a relationship with David as well as openly flirting with Alex. Her involvement is crucial to their plot, as she is able to dispose of body parts in the hospital incinerator without suspicion.
- Christopher Eccleston as David Stevens: A shy chartered accountant, who keeps a low profile. After drawing the short straw and having to cut up the body, he becomes introverted and paranoid, eventually moving upstairs into the loft and drilling holes in the ceiling to spy on his flatmates.
- Ewan McGregor as Alex Law. A cheeky and vain, self-described "hack" journalist. Alex works for the local paper and is able to find out inside information of the police investigation, being the first to learn the discovery of the bodies. His confidence in their plot starts to be undermined by David's deteriorating mental health.
- Ken Stott as Detective Inspector McCall
- Keith Allen as Hugo. An enigmatic man who rents the spare room on the pretence of being a writer. He is later found dead after a drug overdose, leaving a suitcase full of money under his bed.
- Colin McCredie as Cameron. A potential flatmate who is interviewed at the beginning of the film. He is ridiculed and then thrown out by Alex and the housemates, but later gets revenge by physically assaulting Alex at a party.
- Victoria Nairn as Visitor
- Gary Lewis as Visitor
- Jean Marie Coffey as Goth
- Peter Mullan as Andy
- Leonard O'Malley as Tim
The film was Ewan McGregor's first major film role, alongside Christopher Eccleston and Kerry Fox. The supporting cast is led by Keith Allen, Peter Mullan and Ken Stott. It includes John Hodge, the film's writer, as one of the police detectives.
Shooting for Shallow Grave lasted for thirty days. The tight budgetary restraints during filming meant many of the props had to be auctioned off for them to afford sufficient film stock.
Danny Boyle said in his commentary on the 2009 Special Edition DVD and 2012 Blu-ray that Alex is not meant to be dead. Boyle stresses that a line of Alex saying hello to the detective was actually added in post-production to clarify this.
The crew shot predominantly in Glasgow rather than Edinburgh, which is where the story is set, since the Glasgow film fund gave them a £150,000 grant.
Locations in the film include:
- Flat 6 North East Circus Place, New Town, Edinburgh
- Hospital scenes were filmed at Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, Renfrewshire
- The dance scene was filmed at the Townhouse Hotel, 54 West George Street, Glasgow, Strathclyde
Reception and impact
The film was the most commercially successful British film of 1995, although initially not widely seen elsewhere, the film grossed a total of just $2,834,250 in the United States. It led to Boyle's internationally successful production, Trainspotting, two years later. Shallow Grave earned Boyle the Best Newcomer Award from the 1996 London Film Critics Circle and, together with Trainspotting, led to critical commentary that Boyle had revitalised British cinema in the early 1990s.
- 1995 Angers European First Film Festival
- Audience Award – Feature Film
- Best Screenplay – Feature Film
- Liberation Advertisement Award
- 1995 BAFTA – Alexander Korda Award for Best British film (shared with Andrew Macdonald)
- 1995 Cognac Festival du Film Policier
- Audience Award
- Grand Prix
- 1994 Dinard British Film Festival
- Golden Hitchcock
- 1st Empire Awards (1996)
- 1995 Evening Standard British Film Award
- Most Promising Newcomer for Danny Boyle
- 1995 Fantasporto (Portugal)
- International Fantasy Film Award – Best Film
- 1994 San Sebastian International Film Festival
- Silver Seashell – Best Director
|Soundtrack album by Simon Boswell|
|Genre||Electronic, jazz, rock|
|Danny Boyle film soundtrack chronology|
- Leftfield – "Shallow Grave" – 4:38
- Simon Boswell – "Shallow Grave Theme" – 3:30
- Nina Simone – "My Baby Just Cares for Me" – 3:38
- Simon Boswell – "Laugh Riot" – 3:02
- Leftfield – "Release the Dubs" – 5:45
- John Carmichael Band – "Strip the Willow" – 3:12
- Simon Boswell – "Loft Conversion" – 5:45
- Simon Boswell – "A Spade, We Need a Spade" – 2:41
- Simon Boswell – "Shallow Grave, Deep Depression" – 4:49
- Simon Boswell – "Hugo's Last Trip" – 5:39
- Andy Williams – "Happy Heart" – 3:11
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- "Release". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
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- "Shallow Grave (1994)". Box Office Mojo. 28 February 1995. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
- "Shallow Grave". JP's Box-Office. Jpbox-office.com. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
- Williams, Karl. "Shallow Grave". AllMovie. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
- A. Gonzalez, Cristina (April 9, 2013). "Danny Boyle Reflects on Shooting Amidst Real Dead Bodies on Shallow Grave and Talks Budgeting at Academy Event". indieWire.
- Mayer & McDonnell 2007, pp. 377–380.
- "Shallow Grave (1994)". The Numbers. Retrieved 29 December 2009.
- "BFI Top 100 British films". BFI. 6 September 2006. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
- Grice, Elizabeth (24 February 2009). "From Fleapit to the red carpet". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 March 2009.
- "Shallow Grave". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- "Empire Awards Past Winners – 1996". Empire. Bauer Consumer Media. 2003. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
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