Shallow Grave Review

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Three friends discover their new flatmate dead but loaded with cash. Internal wrangles ensue with grissley results..


This, the debut feature from acclaimed TV director Danny Boyle, is the best British thriller for years, a chilling and claustrophobic heart-stopper centring on a moral dilemma destined to fuel many a dinner party conversation.

David (Eccleston), Juliet (Fox) and Alex (MacGregor) are three Edinburghians hunting for a fourth flatmate, even though any rational person would see them as the sort of mildly obnoxious people you wouldn't want to share fridge space with. They eventually settle on the mysterious Hugo (Keith Allen), a decision which swiftly turns out to be a big mistake, for the next day he turns up dead in his bedroom with a suitcase full of cash under the bed.

Inadvisably, the trio act with spontaneity and, having mutilated Hugo's body beyond recognition and buried it in a nearby forest, they pocket the cash. From this point, things gradually become creepier and weirder, as the neurotic David battles with his conscience and his wayward partners in crime bask in their new found financial stability without ever considering the consequences of their actions.

Despite the usual thriller cliches (shadowy rooms, he's-behind-you moments, suspicious cops), this achieves its cut-above-the-rest status through frighteningly realistic characters and relentless pacing. Boyle never lets up for a second, packing more into a slender 94 minutes than many films twice the length, while avoiding contrived sub-plots or cumbersome character development. Instead, we're faced with the protagonists' shocking downward spiral into deviance and madness.

As horrific as it sounds, the violence is deceptively subtle, heightened instead with grisly sound effects and suspense, and there is one hackle-raiser of a shock ending. Not a perfect film by any means, occasionally becoming too baffling for its own good, but with 1995 barely days old, the first unmissable film of the year has arrived.

Chilling Brit rollercoaster-ride of a crime thriller