Danny Boyle has stated that of the films he has directed, this is his father's favorite, and that whenever a new film directed by Boyle junior is released (including Slumdog Millionaire (2008), which won the academy award both for Best Picture and Best Director) and he asks Boyle senior's opinion, his father's review is always the same - "It was good, but not as good as 'Shallow Grave'."
According to director Danny Boyle there's a sly connection between this film and his next film, Trainspotting (1996). Keith Allen portrays a drug dealer in both films leading us to believe he may be the same character featured in both, as Trainspotting was supposed to take place in the late 80s before the occurrences in Shallow Grave.
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.
The film was heavily criticized for its seemingly cold characters. When questioned about the criticisms Danny Boyle responded saying that building plausible characters is something that pleases intellectuals, but audiences in general don't invest much as much into the characters in a film.
The film's French title "Petits meurtres entre amis" translates to "Small Murders Between Friends" in English. This is a close approximation of the movie's tag line, "What's a little murder among friends?"
When the car was dumped in the water-filled quarry, it included ballast meant to inflate so they could then retrieve the vehicle after filming. It didn't work. Danny Boyle thinks the car is still there.
The flat's address is shown twice and it's 6 North East Circus Place, Edinburgh. For obvious reasons the address is fictional; there is no such street. There is however a SOUTH East Circus Place, which has no even numbers, and a 6 North WEST Circus place, which is business premises.
Robert Carlyle was offered the part of David. Carlyle would go on to play the part of Daffy in a future film by Danny Boyle, The Beach (2000), another character that was extremely paranoid and lives in isolation for a good portion of the story.
Danny Boyle was warned by people not to work with Keith Allen , but Boyle loved him and had a great experience working with him. "He felt like a person who was gonna move in and take over the film," he said.
Christopher Eccleston and Ewan McGregor both went on to gain fame for playing iconic science fiction characters. McGregor played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels, while Eccleston played the Ninth Doctor on Doctor Who (2005).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Danny Boyle said in his commentary on the 2009 Special Edition DVD and 2012 Blu-ray that Alex is not meant to be dead at the end. Boyle stresses that a line of Alex saying hello to the detective was actually added in post-production to clarify this.
The shot of a dead David took longer than expected, and it led someone on the film to insist that Danny Boyle be fired. Boyle instead promised to remain under budget and on time in exchange for this unnamed person being fired. The producers complied.
Written 500 years prior to this film, 'The Pardoner's Tale' (part of Geoffrey Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales') follows a similar plot. In it, three friends go on a journey to 'seek out death'. Along the way, they find a large quantity of gold which they decide to share, only for greed to get the better of them and all three end up dead (the Pardoner declares that they did indeed find death). Of course, in this film only David is killed but all have their lives destroyed by greed.