Wiki Headlines
It's time for the second TV Tropes Halloween Avatar Contest, theme: cute monsters! Details and voting here.

main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Film: Shallow Grave
L-R: Obi Wan Kenobi, some chick, the Doctor.

Shallow Grave (1994) is a British crime thriller film and Black Comedy starring Ewan McGregor in his first major film role, alongside Christopher Eccleston and Kerry Fox. Danny Boyle's directorial debut, the movie follows three friends who share a flat in Edinburgh. When their new flatmate, Hugo, dies suddenly of a drug overdose, they discover that the suitcase he brought contained a very large amount of cash. They decide to keep the money, disposing of the late Hugo in a shallow grave, and all seems well, until some of Hugo's associates come looking for him...

Shallow Grave contains examples of:

  • Beware the Nice Ones: David of course, and also Cameron.
  • Black Comedy
  • British Coppers: The film features both a kindly old one and an up-and-coming bright young one.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Alex has one near the end of the film.
  • Character Development: Alex starts as a Jerk Ass, Juliet is somewhere around Team Mom and David is male version of Shrinking Violet. Where they end as however...
  • Charity Ball: Cameron is mocked at one.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Alex and the bundle of newspapers with "Triple Corpse Horror" on the headline.
  • Continuity Nod: Implied in an audio commentary for Danny Boyle's second film Trainspotting. Hugo was played by Keith Allen, who played a dealer that was given a suitcase filled with money by the main characters in Trainspotting, which suggests that that dealer was Hugo.
  • Creepy Doll: The crawling baby doll which Alex and Juliet mount the camcorder on.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alex definitely seems to be having more fun than David or Juliet.
    • The older inspector is like this as part of his trade - it throws everyone off balance and leaves them at his mercy.
  • Deal with the Devil
  • Dies Wide Open: Both Hugo and David. Hugo's eyes are seen staring back at David as he's about to smash his face in. When David is later stabbed his eyes remain open even as he is taken to the mortuary
  • Disposing of a Body
  • Disc One Final Boss: The criminals who spend the first half of the film tracking down the money are disposed of with frightening ease by the film's most truly dangerous character around the halfway mark.
  • Drawing Straws: This turns out to be possibly the worst idea Alex ever had.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Naturally.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Alex. So very, very much. Especially in the 'Strip The Willow' scene where Juliet puts her foot... yeah.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: David has no problem cutting people up (after the first instance), but he can't bring himself to watch Juliet undress.
  • Fan Disservice: No one needed to see Keith Allen's dead, pasty, corpulent nudity.
  • Fanservice: See Modesty Towel.
  • Freak Out: Mild-mannered David completely loses it after being coerced into dismembering Hugo's corpse and rendering his face unrecognisable with a hammer.
  • Genre Savvy: Alex, since he's a journalist looking for a hot scoop and thus knowing all the typical stories of different criminal deeds. It borders on Dangerously Genre Savvy when he starts playing his friends.
  • Gold Digger: Juliet decides to try and get back on David's good side by sleeping with him. This is lampshaded by Alex: "I'd try the same thing, only I'm not his type".
  • Hint Dropping: When David tries to escape with the suitcase full of money Alex suggests to Juliet that they should "let him take it all". This leaves her to discover far too late that Alex has replaced the cash with newspaper.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Alex gets nailed to the floor with a knife through his shoulder, but survives.
  • Informed Ability: Alex is smarter than everyone and Mitchell, the younger inspector, is a rising star. The first one is proven to be true in the end.
  • Jerk Ass: Alex, at least to begin with. Though none of the three could be considered particularly likeable, even before the money is found.
  • Kick the Dog: Used by all three of the characters to some extent, but David takes the dog biscuit.
  • Locked in a Freezer: The two men looking for Hugo use this as an interrogation tactic on someone whom they suspect knows his whereabouts.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Juliet's love-letters, which are definitely not written by Alex:
    "Aroused and inflamed?! He even signs them in his own name, can you believe it? I'd sign someone else's name... I'd sign his name!... If I wrote them that is, which I don't."
  • Modesty Towel: In one scene, Juliet wears a towel around her waist, rather defeating the purpose.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Used to great effect by Alex.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Christopher Eccleston's Scottish accent is passable, but still cracks from time to time.
  • Secret Test of Character: Alex pulled one on Juliet when he's Hint Dropping. He didn't say a single word while being pinned to the floor with a knife.
  • A Simple Plan: Zig-Zagged. The plan itself goes smooth and our trio is relatively safe even during police investigation. It's their mounting paranoia that starts to complicate things.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Andy Williams doesn't exactly gel with the ending.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: David.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Alex. "As smart as you are you're going to need some help".
  • Took a Level in Badass: David starts the film as a terribly meek and bookish accountant, until he's forced to chop up Hugo (see Freak Out above). He soon starts threatening strangers with violence, kills two murderous thugs who are looking for Hugo and tries to kill Alex.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: At the beginning, when the three leads are interviewing for a new flatmate. Simon Cowell could have been taking notes.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: All three of them.
  • Where The Hell Is Springfield?: The opening voiceover states that "this could have been any city," though wherever it is, it's apparently in Scotland. Word of God says it is set in Edinburgh. Though quite a bit of it was filmed in Glasgow.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Averted by David when he punches Juliet, played straight by Alex when he attacks David, yelling that he shouldn't have hit her.
  • You Didn't Ask: Inverted. Unlike their previous victims, Alex instantly told where the money is to the two thugs. The one beating him with a crowbar is somewhat shocked, if not disappointed, because he didn't even start asking questions and got the answer.
Village of the Damned 100 Scariest Movie MomentsThe Night of the Hunter
sex, lies, and videotapeCreator/The Criterion CollectionShoah
Secrets & LiesBritish FilmsThe Tall Guy
The ShadowFilms of the 1990sThe Shawshank Redemption

alternative title(s): Shallow Grave
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy