DVD Shopping Bag: Shallow Grave Criterion Collection Blu-ray (Mania.com)

By:Robert T. Trate
Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Source: Mania.com

Some time in the winter of 1996 I saw the tailer for Trainspotting. I had never heard of Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor, or their first film together, Shallow Grave. There was just something about that “fuck all” attitude to the trailer. I was beginning my studies of film and production at Penn State University. Though I was a die hard fan of the classic filmmakers, Hitchcock, Spielberg, and Ford I knew Trainspotting was something different; something I wanted to be a part of and experience for myself. Penn State University is in farm country. It is tucked in a valley where culture thrives, it’s just that anything new takes a while to get there. Trainspotting was not coming to any local theater nor would it be screening for the students on campus. It wasn’t until I went to the beach on summer break that I came across Danny Boyle’s film. 

I was sucked in my its message, the music, and was thrilled to see it was more that just a fuck the world kind of movie. It was a journey about discovery, self worth, and being more than what everyone else thought you were. At least that’s what I took from the film. The film’s protagonist, McGregor, was someone I could identify with. Not the drug part, but in the way he felt trapped by his friends. I wanted to step out from the group and be more than the sum of the group’s parts. 

Film school hooks you in multiple ways. You become a connoisseur and always want to find a second helping of a director’s work. More than just multiple screenings of the same film (three times in the theater for Trainspotting), you seek out their other work. Since this was Boyle’s second theatrical feature, my only logical choice was Shallow Grave

Shallow Grave is about three self-involved Edinburgh roommates (Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, and Ewan McGregor) who take in a brooding boarder and. When the man dies of an overdose leaving a suitcase full of money, the trio embark on a series of very bad decisions, with extraordinarily grim consequences for all. Instantly my film student brain could see the correlation to the type of films Hitchcock made. The director was all I needed yet the plot was pretty sweet, too. 

The days have long passed since my 50 cent VHS rental at Mike’s Video and my first glance of Shallow Grave. What I didn’t know at the time was I watching the man who would be Obi-Wan Kenobi in the next Star Wars. Nor did I ever think that one of these players would get me hooked into Doctor Who, a show I was always mystified and terrified by as a kid. When the news of each was announced (years apart) I knew who these actors were, unlike so many of my peers. When Boyle had a “zombie” film in theaters I ran right to it. Being a fan of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting was enough to forgive the misstep of A Life Less Ordinary. So when Criterion Collection announced that Shallow Grave would be joining their Library (#616) it was a no brainer to pick up the Blu-ray. 

The film today, besides having Doctor Who and Obi-Wan in it, relatively remains unchanged. If anything it reminds us of how our world was and defined by the people we lived with. There is no outside influence such as cell phones or internet in Shallow Grave. The horror that these three flatmates created was their own. Their dilemma is just as viable today as Roger Thornhill’s is in Hitchcok’s North by Northwest. The modernization of the world doesn’t change great storytelling. 

Criterion Collection is notorious for pulling out all the stops on their Blu-rays and DVDs. This one is no exception. Outside of the original documentaries and video dairies for the film, its modern interview is the one worth watching. Criterion assembled the three leads for a 30 minute interview about the film. Again, Criterion reminds us how much they love cinema and know that we do, too. 

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Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.