The new flatmate of three preexisting roommates turns up mysteriously dead but in possession of a large sum of money. When the roommates decide to keep it for themselves, their action sets in motion a destructive chain of events that spiral out of control.Written by
Shallow Grave marked the feature debut for a number of its creators. It was the first feature that Danny Boyle directed, the debut for screenwriter John Hodge, and the first feature starring role for Ewan McGregor. See more »
When Juliet examines the dead body of Hugo, she closes his eyes. Later when they bury the body and David prepares to smash Hugo's teeth, the eyes are wide open. See more »
This film opens with three hip, cynical young Scottish professionals, David, Juliet and Alex (Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox and Ewan McGregor)who are looking for a fourth to share their spacious flat. That they aren't very nice people is clear in the opening scenes. when they taunt and mock the hapless applicants with insults and absurd questions, it is a foreshadowing of future nastiness and some of the choices they make. Finally an older man who seems to be their match takes the room, then immediately up and dies on them--and leaves a suitcase full of money. Did the guy commit suicide? And if so, why? More than likely the money came from some ill-gotten source, so why not keep it? But first, his corpse, which is, as Alex puts it, starting to "go off and smell" must be dealt with, hence the title. Scotland is such a great setting for a horror thriller, it's a shame more of them aren't set there. These are the people who gave us Burke and Hare after all. Add to that all the stereotypes about Scottish people and money and it's a perfect set-up for this plot. The sexual tension among the three also adds a suspenseful twist. Ewan McGregor was even more heartbreakingly handsome in those days, long before he was a Jedi knight, but in spite of that, he does an amazing job playing a lout.
It may be my imagination, but Danny Boyle seems given to "Clockwork Orange" references here as he was in "Trainspotting" (Watch for the scene at the charity ball with Ewan McGregor on the floor with Fox's foot on his face. There are others.) Nothing wrong with that. And as with "Trainspotting", there are some flights of pure fantasy, though none as protracted as the toilet scene.
Though not heavy handedly, I think that this film, perhaps even more so than "Trainspotting" makes a pointed comment on the spiritual condition(empty) of young people in the nineties. These are very much films of their time--they could not have been made in an earlier time, and not just because of explicit drug and violence scenes.
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