“You kids are going to be the death of me.”
Viewed by some as Wes Craven‘s best film, The People Under the Stairs is a film that explores what’s really going on behind the walls of a Los Angeles mansion that once operated as a funeral home.
When 13-year old Fool (Brandon Quintin Adams) learns his family is about to be evicted from their ghetto apartment, a family friend, Leroy (Ving Rhames), convinces the kid to break into their landlord’s house to help make the triple rent now owed on his family’s place.
Their landlords are the Robeson’s, a wealthy old family who live in an estate once run as a funeral home. The Robeson’s (Twin Peaks alum Everett McGill and the amazing Wendy Robie) are sitting on a fortune, and what’s more, they have a very rare, very sought after collection of gold coins. If Fool and Leroy can get in the house and find the coins, they’ll be set. Getting revenge on the greedy Robeson clan is just icing on Fool’s 13th birthday cake.
What Fool and Leroy don’t count on is that life is anything but normal behind the walls of the Robeson mansion. The brother and sister, who call each other “Daddy” and “Mommy”, are living in a subtextually incestuous relationship. For years they have been detaining, murdering, and eating people who come around to meddle in their affairs. And, in their attempt to have a family, have incarcerated a young girl, Alice (A.J. Langer). All the boys they’ve tried to assimilate into their little twisted family have failed the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” test and have been put in the basement, under the stairs.
Seemingly trapped inside the Robeson estate, Fool and Leroy learn that sometimes the way out is the way in.
It’s hard not to like The People Under the Stairs. It’s the story of an intercity kid trying to do right by his family and, against all odds, manages to become a little man in the process. There’s cannibalism, comedy, S&M attire, bloodshed by the buckets, guns, weapons, secret passages, weird completely-inexplicably albino mutants (?) living in the basement. But would I say The People Under the Stairs is a stone cold horror film? No.
What The People Under the Stairs achieves in spades is to be a wholly entertaining film. It feels long even though the runtime comes in at a tidy 102 minutes. Even so, The People Under the Stairs is a perfect introduction into the world of horror, one that probably won’t give you any nightmares or completely freak/gross you out. After all, despite the violence and moments intended to shock your sensibilities, Craven has managed to interlace some truly comedic moments as well.
The People Under the Stairs depicts a secret world completely polarized to our expectations of what is really going on inside the homes of the wealthy.
Wiki facts: The People Under the Stairs
Rotten or Fresh: 59%
Watch or buy The People Under the Stairs on Amazon