Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments:#91-Shallow Grave(1994)

By Eric Polk-
In the days before he became Obi-Wan Kenobi, actor Ewan McGregor made quite the name for himself on the indy British film scene(Trainspotting and Velvet Goldmine, for example). In Shallow Grave, he clearly demonstrates his multi-dimensional talent. This 1994 film marked the debut of director Danny Boyle and begs the question,"What would you do with a suitcase full of money?" The answer, in this case, is k-i-l-l.

David (Christopher Eccleston), a chartered accountant, Juliet (Kerry Fox), a doctor, and Alex (Ewan McGregor), a journalist, are three friends who share a flat in Edinburgh. They need a new flat mate and, after a sequence of interviews, in which unwanted applicants are rejected with calculated cruelty, take in the mysterious Hugo (Keith Allen). When Hugo suddenly dies of a drug overdose, they discover that he has a very large amount of cash in a suitcase. The three decide to keep the money and to dispose of Hugo's corpse in the titular shallow grave. The three flatmates plan to bury the body out in the forest and keep the money. To prevent the body from being identified, they decide to saw off and incinerate the hands and feet, smash in the face with a hammer, and remove the teeth.

Meanwhile, two unnamed gangsters (Peter Mullan and Leonard O'Malley) are seen in a bloody pursuit of the case, coldly killing three men in the process.

David reluctantly decides to join the scheme after evaluating how dull his accounting job is and much pleading from Alex. In the meantime, the body remains in the room and "starts to smell." The flatmates decide to draw straws for who does all of the sawing and bashing of skull. Filled with fear, David is unlucky and draws the short straw. Nauseated by the task, he reluctantly obliges. Immediately after the incident, David becomes entrenched in a fit of depression. Inflicted with paranoia that the police are on to them and paranoia that the other flatmates are after the money, he locks himself in the attic with the suitcase full of money, faking an excuse to stay off work. When the gangsters arrive at the flat, they force their way into the loft, but are killed by David, who promptly leads the disposal of the remains next to Hugo's grave.

However, soon after the police, in the form of Detective McCall (Ken Stott) and Detective Mitchell (John Hodge, the writer of the screenplay) visit the residence to interview David, where their suspicion is clear. The fact that the police find the bodies and then interview the flatmates sends David into an outrage, because he warned Alex earlier that the grave isn't deep enough. By this time, David is convinced that the police know everything, and his outrage intensifies Alex's fear and suspicion of him - all of which results in the total isolation of each individual. All of the money, except for that spent during a short, extravagant, and insanely happy shopping spree, remains untouchable, by reason of either fear or guilt.As David and Juliet start to leave the flat with the money, without Alex, a confrontation erupts and David pins down Alex by stabbing him in the shoulder.

While this is not a straight piece of horror per se, there are some worthy elements of psychological terror, a descent into insanity and murder on the part of the three main characters. Very solid, very engaging. Now, I've gone on record as saying this is an obscure gem. While it did blow up huge over in England(where the movie was filmed), here in the states, it received critical acclaim, but little else. A shame considering.

No comments: