Review: The People Under The Stairs

20 Mar

This film is a pretty entertaining horror film from the 90s that is a bit different. It is dIrected by Wes Craven and while not among his best films I always had fun watching it.

The hero of this film is 13-year-old Fool (Brandon Quintin Adams) and it’s his birthday.To celebrate his sister Ruby (Kelly Jo Minter) reads his future in her Tarot cards and warns him that he faces a trial. Fool lives in the ghetto with his mother and she is very sick with untreated cancer. One of Ruby’s friends Leroy (Ving Rhames) talks to Fool about how much crap his family are in, including telling him that they are going to be evicted for not paying their rent on time and that his mother’s cancer is treatable but because they don’t have any money she is dying.

This set-up is just to soften Fool up to so that Leroy can convince him to help him out robbing their landlords. Leroy and his pal Spenser (Jeremy Roberts) have worked that the landlords for lots of houses in the ghetto are the same people who also run the pawn shops. They know where they live and they have heard rumours that the owners keep a collection of valuable rare gold coins in their house and this is what Spenser and Leroy want to steal. They want to find out how secure the house is and that’s where Fool comes in. They get him to dress as a Boy Scout trying to sell cookies and to case out the place. While Fool is trying the doors and having a look around the woman Mommy Robeson (Wendy Robie) comes out wanting to know what he’s after. She doesn’t fall for Fool’s Boy Scout routine and Fool fails to trick his way into the house by asking to use her toilet. The Robeson’s daughter Alice (A.J. Langer) was watching Fool from an upstairs window.

Spenser decides to try himself by dressing as a gas company engineer and he manages to get inside the house. Leroy and Fool wait in the van for a signal from Spenser but as the time goes on then Mommy gets in her car and drives off. Leroy gets worried that Spenser may be trying to get the gold for himself. Leroy breaks into the house with a crowbar taking the reluctant Fool with him. Getting into the house seems fairly easy until they discover the place is guarded by a large Rottweiler but they manage to trap it in the utility room. Leroy wants to go upstairs and look for the gold but Fool doesn’t so he stays downstairs in case Mommy comes back.

Fool hears a noise and goes down to the cellar and finds Spenser lying dead on the floor. He also sees strange figures moving about behind a crude partition. They grab Spensrs body and poullit towards the [partition but Fool grabs him back and sees that they hve been chwing off the flesh on Spenser’s hand. Fool freaks runs up the stairs and finds Leroy lying with his  headstuck in a heating vent. Fool thinks the worst but Leroy is alive and was looking in there because he heard noises in the walls.

Mommy comes back and she has Daddy (Everett McGill) with her. They spot Spenser’s van and know something is up and when they find the dog in the utility room they know someone is in the house but they are stuck outside the metal security door. Daddy beats at the base of the door and manages to bend the metal (It looked like solid steel but I guess it was just aluminium or something) and let the dog in. The dog attacks them and chases them around the house. Fool runs for the front door but when he touches the handle he is knocked out by a powerful electric shock. When he recovers the dog has a firm grip on Leroy’s arm. Fool has a really stupid idea and grabs Leroy’s other hand and pulls him towards the door. He grabs the handle and the three of them get shocked but Leroy and Fool quickly recover and get away upstairs while the dog lies whimpering and twitching.

Daddy and Mommy get into the house and Mommy goes to take of her dog while Daddy gets mad and gets armed with his shotgun. He comes after them and spots Leroy. Leroy tells Fool to get away but Daddy thinks Leroy was talking to him and gloats as he shoots him dead. Fool hides in a cupboard but freaks out when a skinny figure with scary hair tries to grab him and he runs out and hides in the corridor. The police arrived outside and want to know about the van outside. Mommy tells them it’s not theirs and spots the Boy Scout uniform in the back. She realises that Fool was with the thieves and tells daddy to find him. Fool spots a rag doll tied to string. Some tugs the string and pulls the doll into a heating vent. Daddy is getting closer to finding Fool so he decides to follow the doll through the gaps between the walls until he comes out of the vent in different run-down part of the house and meets Alice

Alice tells Fool about Mommy and Daddy and how they keep looking for the perfect child but all the bad boys did or said something wrong and had to have their tongues cut out and get locked away in the cellar. One boy Roach  (Sean Whalen) has escaped the cellar and is living in the walls where Daddy can’t get him but no-one has got out of the house. This is the boy who tried to save Fool earlier but Fool ran away. Plenty of others have got in but none of them left and Alice shows Fool the dolls she has made to remember the victims that the Robesons fed to The people under the stairs. Daddy has put on a gimp suit (Seriously!) and is chasing round the house looking for Fool and Roach and firing his gun at the noises in the walls but Roach leads Fool to safety. When Fool goes back to get Alice to get her out of the house Daddy catches them. When Roach tries to get away Daddy shoots him.

Daddy chains Fool in the cellar and then cuts up Leroy’s body, tossing bits of meat at the boys behind the partition  and eating some of the meat himself. Daddy leaves Fool there but he gets rescued by the critically injured Roach who hides him in the furnace and gives him several gold coins and a written note asking him to take care of Alice. Fool agrees and Roach dies after showing him the way up to through the house to the attic up the chimney. Fool gets to Alice and they escape into the walls but Daddy sends the dog after them. Fool struggles with the dog while Daddy stabs at the wall with a bayonet. Fool manages to get the dog against the wall and Daddy stabs the wall killing it. Daddy thinks he killed the boy but when Mommy insists on seeing the body they realise it’s the dog he’s killed. Fool and Alice get up to the attic where they find the only window not secured because it’s a sheer drop two floors down. Fool remembers that there’s a pond right under it so it should be okay to jump but. Alice is terrified and won’t go. Just then Daddy arrives and Fool makes the jump alone, promising Alice he’ll be back for her. He lands in the pond and gets clean away.

Fool tells Ruby and his grandfather about what happened. Grandfather tells them that the Robesons are descendants of morticians who procreated by incest until ending in the present pair of psychotic freaks who are brother and sister, not husband and wife. They don’t have any children, the kidnapped all their children as babies. Grandfather assures Fool that the gold coins are enough to pay their rent and for Fool’s mother to get her operation. Fool is determined to go back and rescue Alice so he comes up with a plan with his family.

Back in the crazy house Mommy throws Alice on the blood covered floor and makes her clean it up. Then because she got blood on her dress Mommy forces Alice into a bath full of scalding hot water. Outside Fool goes to a payphone and calls the police to report the Robesons for child abuse. This results in loads of police as well as child protection people all over the house but the Robesons have everything hidden away and Mommy serves coffee and cakes to police while they chat about the how nasty the neighbourhood is.

The police leave and right away Mommy and Daddy realise anybody could have got into the house while the police were there. They are right because Fool is hiding inside the house. They catch him but he escapes into the chimney and climbs up to the attic where Alice is tied to a metal loop fixed into the chimney. Fool tells Alice that the Robesons are not her parents and this persuades her that she needs to leave. Alice warns him that Daddy drained the pond and blocked up the ducts and rigged them with explosives. Fool frees Alice but Daddy comes up so Alice pretends to still be tied up.

Fool tries to ambush Daddy but gets caught. He manages to get away when Ruby and the rest of the ghetto appear at the door and distract Mommy. Fool then goes down to the cellar and opens the partition to free the boys under the stairs. They show him a vault full of money and gold that the Robesons have squirreled away. It is also full of explosives, which is handy.

Alice gets caught by Mommy but she stabs Mommy with a kitchen knife and the boys burst through the stairs and kill her. Daddy goes down to get Fool in the vault but Fool has wired up the explosives. He gives a Daddy a chance but he’s just a mad dog and Fool detonates the explosive and the Vault and goes kablooey and Daddy gets blasted through a wall and into the sewer dead. The money gets grabbed by everyone and the boys from the under the stairs escape into the night.

This urban fairy tale is a very entertaining films and the action is almost constant. The Robesons are a really over-the-top pair of villains but while Daddy is a psychoidiot in a gimp suit Mommy is just a downright evil bitch. I remember that the actors played a very similar married couple in Twin Peaks but not quite so crazy. There is very little graphic gore despite the film being about cannibals under the stairs. I always have fun watching this film

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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2 responses to “Review: The People Under The Stairs

  1. Eva Halloween

    March 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Ah, I’ve always had a soft spot for this movie… 😉

  2. Emma

    March 22, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    I vaguely remember this movie, must give it another watch.


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