The People Under the Stairs (65)
Stuart M. Besser
A. J. Langer
November 1, 1991
Budget - $6 Million
Box office - $31.4 Million
The People Under the Stairs is a horror movie from 1991. Wes Craven directed, and it stars Brandon Adams, Ving Rhames, Wendy Roby and Everett McGill. It’s a different type of horror movie that doesn’t lean on gore to push the fright. Instead, we get a genuine creepy film that shows Craven still had chops without Freddy. It’s a great movie I have on VHS. It’s a treasure in my collection. I had seen the movie numerous times. I love it.
Eldon Robeson and his wife are creepy slumlords that own a good portion of property in the inner city. They keep their tenements in ruins while hiking the rent. “Fool” is a kid that lives in one of these tenements. His mother has cancer and the Robeson's are forcing them out on the street. Leroy smartens Fool up to a life of crime. A way to earn the money his mother needs. Leroy’s plan is to rob the Robeson’s. They evidently have a large amount of treasure, a large cache of gold coins, and Leroy is apt to get it. Just, no one expected how weird and bizarre Mommy and Daddy are. They live in a virtual funhouse that traps people inside. An unrealistically large mansion full of secret passages, hallways and rooms. Not to mention the little girl they keep locked up, or what they have living in the basement.
This was light on blood and gore, it was still present, but it was conservative. Nothing more than a few bloody props. The scares came from the creepiness of the family. The Robersons are an incestiual brother and sister couple that torture and hunt prisoners they keep in their basement. The movie also utilizes jump scares pretty well. Fool is startled by just about everything in that crazy house. It’s truly suspenseful when Fool and Leroy are stuck in the house. I found my pulse racing. I’d say that makes it a successful horror movie.
Both Wendy Roby and Everett McGill had starred together as Ed and Nadine, a married couple in David Lynch’s, Twin Peaks. They were amazing, and their on screen chemistry is fantastic. Wes Craven had recognized that and wanted to cast them based on that performance. They are great as Mommy and Daddy Roberson in this picture. Brandon Adams is a successful lead. His acting is convincing and helped drive the suspense. You really wanted him to survive. I also liked Sean Whalen as Roach, Roach was one of the malnourished prisoners that had gotten loose in the walls of the house. He was hilarious and redeeming. It was a drag to see him eat it.
I love this movie. It’s not amazing, but it’s still charming. It’s a great movie for anyone but little kids. It’s really tame by today's standards but it’s still really heavy. I highly recommend The People Under the Stairs to horror fans that like fun movies. It’s fun. Brandon Adams is great. I remember him from The Mighty Ducks, and that’s what interested me in this movie. I think I had watched it on USA Up All Night or Monstervision, but ended up getting it on VHS too. It’s fun for marathons and tame enough for parties.