#280 -- The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Director: Wes Craven
Rating: 4 / 5

I caught this movie on television years ago, but I only caught the tail end of it. I could tell instantly that it was something I definitely wanted to see. I caught it on TV again some time later, a bit earlier but still not at the beginning. Then, I got the jist of what was going on, but not completely. This time around is the first time I've actually watched the entire movie. So now I know the whole story, and I can tell you...I dig it. It seems like it's one of those movies that can go any way. Some people love it, some people don't, and some just don't care. I'm sort of in the middle. I really liked it, but I didn't quite love it. Still, it's a good movie.

It's about a young boy named Fool (I think his name was actually Poindexter; I think I'd prefer Fool too). He'd just turned thirteen, and he'd been through more than probably all of us have in our lives. He was poor, living in the ghetto with a cancer-ridden mother, a sister with some babies, and no money to pay for anything. On top of all that, their landlords were trying to evict them so that they could tear the building down and build something bigger and better. In order to get some money, a man offered Fool a job: to rob their landlords, who supposedly had a house full of gold. So along with two men, Fool set out to do just that. But little did they all know, their landlords were fucking crazy.

One of the men was killed pretty much as soon as he walked in the door. The other took some time, but it didn't take long for Fool to realize that he wasn't messing around with your average every day rich folks. They had a daughter who was terrified of them and suffered horrible abuse, and there was a guy living in the walls. The daughter, Alice, called him Roach (haha!) and he was a pretty cool dude, though he looked like he could be Steve Buscemi's son. There were some other people living in the cellar who kind of looked like zombies (probably because they were fed body parts of people that were killed). Roach had escaped into the walls, and remained there in hiding. Anyways, Fool became trapped in the house once his older accomplices were killed, and Roach and Alice helped him stay safe. He eventually escaped with a couple of gold coins and took them back home to help with his mother's operations and such. He then returned to the house to save Alice, because...well, someone had to do it.

It turned out that "Mommy" and "Daddy" were actually siblings, and Alice wasn't their daughter at all. They abducted children, trying to find the perfect child. Everyone knows, though, that there's no such thing. Once they found something wrong with one of them, they'd cut it out (Roach had his tongue cut out for trying to call for help) and throw them in the basement. Those were the people under the stairs. Daddy was really crazy, and he wore some kind of dominatrix costume while he was shooting at people in the walls. It was easy to tell, though, that Mommy was actually the brains and master of the operation. That was one evil bitch.

I think all the components of the movie were really well done. The actors were good, the story was well written and interesting, and it definitely succeeds in holding the viewer's attention. It goes at a steady pace that's neither rushed nor slow, and the effects (though there wasn't all that much gore) were good. Word around the internet is that there's a remake in the works, though I don't really see the point. It's a good movie, but it's hardly great enough to be considered a classic. It doesn't really have a cult following, and it's not old enough to need a revisit. It's just more evidence that people are completely unable to come up with their own ideas, and simply feed off the ideas of great minds like Wes Craven.

You should give The People Under the Stairs a go, though. It's an entertaining movie with an interesting and original story.

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