The Criterion Corner – SHALLOW GRAVE

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Seeing as how Danny Boyle’s newest flick Trance is about to hit theaters, I thought it would be a good idea to review Shallow Grave, his first (along with Ewan McGregor’s first starring) film.

As always, clicking on the the picture will link you to Amazon where you can pick up your very own copy of the Criterion Blu or DVD!

So, let’s get into the thick of it, shall we?

Shallow Grave is about as dark black comedy can get. First, it’s a semi-sordid love triangle thinly layered on an all too perfect crime story. It’s a simple beginning, three roommates are looking to add a fourth to their swanky, professional, bohemian Edinburgh flat. The current residents are David (Christopher Eccleston), an accountant, Juliet (Kerry Fox), a doctor, and Alex (McGregor), a journalist. They attempt to interview new flat mates, but they just end up making fun of all potential candidates to a pretty ruthless degree. Then Hugo shows up, a man with taste and a mysterious past. Obviously, Hugo fits their insane criteria. A few days go by and the three friends realize that they haven’t seen Hugo in quite a while. They open his door and there, in all his glory, is Hugo dead from an OD and a briefcase full of money. From there, the story becomes insanely good so I can’t really spoil anything for you.

What I love the most about this film is how cold all the actors are. At no point during any of this film did I feel for a single character on screen. In fact, I was actually praying for their demise. At first, you can root for David because he is the pure conscious of the film, well for the first two acts at least. He is genuinely upset at what has happened and you can actually sense the terror in his voice and actions. Then, rather remarkably, he snaps and turns into something cold-blooded and ruthless. It’s a wonderful acting job from Eccleston and for me, it’s what makes the movie. Not to say that staring at Kerry Fox is bad, but you get the idea.

Ahem.

I love movies like this. Movies that really explore the dark, Hitchcockian side of human beings. Where everything is peachy keen on the surface but a brutal monster is waiting just out of frame. It’s just the best type of cinema, and Boyle really nails it here. The only kind of flaw is that the movie shows its age a bit with the music and costumes, but I kind of dig the nostalgia of it.

If you’re a fan of dark comedies or a suspense film junkie, I can’t recommend Shallow Grave enough.

So now onto the disc!

Criterion has done (like always) a really great job with this disc. The aesthetic of the cover, while being rather plain and dull, really sell the short bursts of violence in the film. When you see a picture of a cork board with hammers hanging on it and a big SHALLOW GRAVE in the middle, you can pretty much figure out what happens.

-You get two commentaries, one by director Danny Boyle and one by writer John Hodge.
-New interviews with the three leads.
-A video diary from the producer.
-A short documentary about the film.
-An essay by critic Paul Kemp.
-And of course a really crisp clean digital transfer of the film.

All of that, plus an awesome movie for under 30 American dollars. Come on.

This is one of those movies that you want to show to your friends so you can discuss it for months to come afterwards, and honestly, who doesn’t love a good crime thriller?

Until then,

-Phelps

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