People Under the Stairs
Directed By: Wes Craven
Released: November 1, 1991
Released in 1991, “People Under the Stairs” is probably the most overlooked and least mentioned pieces of work from director Wes Craven’s catalog. When you think of Mr. Craven you probobly first go to “Nightmare on Elm Street” and then there is of course the way overrated “Scream” which in my opinion partly led to the downfall of American horror movies today. But rarely is this gem talked about or mentioned in the film community. I remember seeing this in the theater when it first came out and it instantly became a part of my favorites list. Not only did it scare the crap out of me but the memories of how fun it was to watch and how beautiful it looked stayed with me throughout time. So it always confused me when I would see those top ten or top twenty horror lists and “People Under the Stairs” wasn’t on it. I could never understand why that was.
The premise of the story is one of the things I loved about it and thought was pretty different at that time, where the so-called monsters were actually the heroes and the so-called normal people were actually the monsters. I though that was very cool. The main character Poindexter, aka “Fool”, (played by Brandon Adams) is absolutely terrific. Trying to save his family from being kicked out of their apartment and take care of his mother who is dying of cancer, Fool takes part in a master plan run by Leroy (Ving Rhames) and his buddy Spencer (Jeremy Roberts) to rob the house of the mysterious couple who owns the apartment building and most of the city as well. Fool finds himself trapped inside the landlords’ house that is a cross between The Addams Family and Fort Knox. He also finds out the secret about the children being raised (I use this term loosely) by the couple, one of them is a girl named Alice who tries to help Fool get out once he’s trapped inside along with the ones who are living under the stairs and in the walls. The couple themselves are absolutely insane. Turns out Man (Everett McGill) and Woman (Wendy Robie) are not husband and wife but brother and sister and are acting out these sadistic and horrific acts on these children who were kidnapped from their homes.
“People Under the Stairs” is a great combination of horror, suspense, action and comedy. The film itself looks incredible on blu ray. Very dark, gothic and atmospheric. The blu ray also has some great behind the scene clips with Wes Craven and Greg Nicotero (whom I hardly recognized when I saw him!) as well as a great interview with Wendy Robie about playing her role as the crazy housemother.
Whether you saw it in theater like I did or waited until it was out on VHS and/or DVD or especially if you haven’t seen it at all yet, I can’t recommend enough that you go out and pick up a copy. It is well worth being a part of your collection and will also say that it deserves a ton more credit and recognition than it has gotten in the past!