The People Under the Stairs (1991)
By: CJ on August 28, 2002  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Universal (UK). Region 2 & 4 PAL, 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. English, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish Subtitles. 97 Minutes
The Movie
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Brandon Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen, Bill Cobbs, Kelly Jo Minter
Screenplay: Wes Craven
Tagline: In every neighborhood there is one house that adults whisper about and children cross the street to avoid.
After bringing us such devilish delights as a burn-scarred child-molester who wreaks vengeance from beyond the grave in A Nightmare on Elm Street and murderous, sadistic thugs in Last House on the Left Wes Craven turns his attention to.erm..some People Under the Stairs. It doesn't sound too impressive - does it? I mean, how scary can a bunch of kids under the stairs be? Well, it's not. But I don't think 'scary' is what Craven is trying to achieve here. The film plays more like an urban adventure with horror overtones, a bit like a grown-up version of Home Alone - with blood.

The story tells of a young lad who calls himself 'Fool' (Brandon Adams) who wants to rescue his family from eviction by their ruthless landlord. As well as this, his mother is sick and urgently requires medical treatment - which they cannot afford. His sister's boyfriend, Leroy (Ving Rhames), informs him that their landlord is rich - he has a highly valuable gold coin collection, to be exact - and could easily be stolen. Fool, seeing the predicament his family are in, decides to help Leroy in order to gain enough money himself to save his family from eviction and to get his mother her much needed medical assistance.

Things, however, do not go according to plan with Leroy's partner winding up dead and with himself and Fool trapped within the house, which is full of hidden passageways, booby traps and. oh yes.the people under the stairs. When the evil couple arrive back to the house, Leroy is quickly caught and messily dispatched whilst Fool escapes into the houses' labyrinthine passageways behind the walls. Here he encounters a strange waif-like boy called Roach and the strange couple's 'Daughter' Alice.

Although Roach is killed trying to help Alice and Fool, Fool still manages to save the day by blowing up the house and freeing the people under the stairs (not to mention Alice) - who, it is revealed, were children who had been abducted by the couple.

Not Craven's best work by a long chalk, but there is still plenty here to enjoy. The sight of Everett McGill charging around the house dressed head-to-toe in bondage gear waving a shotgun is unforgettable. Wendy Robie also turns in a suitably malignant performance as Everett's partner and simply oozes evil perversity. Ving Rhames is merely average and Brandon does a reasonable job. However, McGill and Robie simply steal every scene they are in - two magnificent performances from this pair.

Craven directs with a sure hand and just about manages to pull it off. It is a highly entertaining film never the less and you could do far worse than while away 97 minutes watching this. Although this reviewer thoroughly enjoyed the film - he was not oblivious to its flaws. However, I would heartily recommend the film as there is plenty here to keep any genre fan happy.
Not as good as you'd expect from a major studio release. Universal could have done a slightly better job with the transfer, in this reviewer's opinion. Having said that, it does look very good with nice colours and deep blacks with no artefacting or colour bleeding. It's a bit 'smeary' and grainy at times, but overall it's very nice to look at. But, as has been said, you'd expect a slightly higher quality transfer from a major studio release like this. But don't be put off - it's still very good.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound mix was very good and quite impressive at times. When put through a Pro-Logic system some aurally entertaining sound movement ensues with plenty of activity from the rear speakers. Very good.
Extra Features
Erm, extras? Well, there's a fullscreen trailer. That's it. Oh.and scene selection.
The Verdict
What can I say? It's low budget horror - and we like that kind of thing here at Terror Oz, don't we? At least there's plenty of imagination at work here to keep the film interesting and entertaining for its full duration. I liked it - but for some of you that will not come as a recommendation. You know who you are.
Movie Score
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