Make no mistake, there are those things that go bump in the night and make our walls creek and our stairs squeak, but we always think that they happen in someone else’s house…and we were right. “The People Under The Stairs” just might be one of the more complete movies in writer/director Wes Craven’s entire career, as we get the scares, the laughs and the gore in just the right amounts.
It’s that house, the house that nobody in the neighbourhood ever wants to go to, but little does anyone ever realize that those stories about the most demented house on the block are actually true. With young Fool (Brandon Adams) and his family about to get evicted from their apartment with their sick mother, he gets roped into a plan by Leroy (Ving Rhames) to rob the landlord’s house which is told to have a cache of rare gold coins but a quick pay day turns into an unforgettable nightmare. This house has secrets and homicidal inhabitants (Everett McGill and Wendy Robie) who will stop at nothing to keep their secrets and make sure that anyone who goes into this house, never, ever comes out.
A rich and fun affair that highlights Craven not only as a story teller, but as someone not afraid to crack a joke or two at his own expense for just the right accessible blend of horror intercut with humor.
Craven takes the classic horror set up and allows it to have some fresh legs as he never hits us over the head with the creepy house motif and allows everything to go horribly horribly wrong at a natural pace. We follow our hero as he gets through the house, ducking problems and evading trouble at every turn as he slowly but surely discovers allies inside this awful house. Craven makes this one house into a labyrinth that would make the likes of Guillermo del Toro or even Stanley Kubrick proud because we aren’t just in a house down the street, we’re on another damn planet. With great characters and crazy twists and turns we get swept up into the action and simply forget about everything else.
Coming off of the “Twin Peaks” TV show both Everett McGill and Wendy Robie are creepy fun as they dive into this backwards world that we have to navigate. They are both so over the top that we manage to laugh and have our skin crawl, all at the same time. Brandon Adams makes for a fun and plucky hero while Ving Rhames only shows flashes of what has made him such an iconic actor while other familiar faces like Sean Whalen, AJ Langer, Kelly Jo Minter and Bill Cobbs round out the ensemble. However with the bulk of the action taking place in the house, McGill, Robie and Adams craft one hell of a fun cat and mouse game for us to get lost in.
“The People Under The Stairs” is one of those movies that exemplifies the magic of horror movies, because you can scare people, but not take yourself too seriously all at the same time.
4 out of 5 stars.
“The People Under The Stairs” is now available on Special Edition Blu-Ray from retailers everywhere.
The picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are top notch and the special features include a feature length commentary track with Wes Craven as well as another one with stars Brandon Adams & AJ Langer, four extensive retrospective interviews, rare behind the scenes interviews and the theatrical trailer.