Wes Craven’s ‘The People Under the Stairs’: Campy with a Twist of Somberness (review)

Fool (Brandon Adams) is a 13-year-old boy with major problems. His mama needs an operation, and because his family is three days late on the rent for their ghetto apartment, they’re getting evicted. His sister’s friend Leroy (Ving Rhames) offers him a chance to make some money: break into the house of his landlords, who “deserve to be robbed.” They sure do, we find out. Upon entry, they discover that Man (Everitt McGill) and Woman (Wendy Robie) (that’s how they’re credited) have a deep dark secret. In search of the perfect child, they kidnap a kid, and when they’re disappointed, they throw said child into the cellar—but not before horribly disfiguring him. Their current experiment, Alice (A.J. Langer), befriends Fool, and tries to help him. Fool is left trying to escape the crazy white folks’ house with the money and his life.

“With all that money I could buy a thousand ridiculous hats and multicolored shirts!”

One of the most striking themes of the film is that appearances are deceiving. For example, the irony of Fool’s name; he’s far from stupid—he outwits Man and Woman several times. Then there’s Man and Woman’s house; it looks nice on the outside, but the inside is dirty and rotting. The same goes for Man and Woman themselves; on the outside they seem normal, but in reality are insane—they have a cellar full of mangled children to prove it. There’s a scene when Fool calls Child Services on them, and they trick the police into thinking they’re loving parents. Then of course there’s the theme of the underdog coming out on top. Man and Woman own a lot of buildings, and towards the end their disgruntled tenants come a’callin’.

“White folks get stranger all the time.”–actual quote, but not from this movie

Though it gets hard to watch at times because of the child abuse, overall, I don’t have any complaints about the movie; the acting is good, the plot makes sense, and it’s fairly original. I first saw this edited for TV, and I really don’t recommend that. There’s a good deal of swearing, and the editing is ridiculous. For example, “Shut the fuck up” becomes “Shut the face up.”

‘If he thinks I’m laundering that apron, he better shut the face up.’

Published by GhoulieJoe

I wuvs the horror movies and like to write snarky reviews about them. I also included some pretentious as hell microfiction (don't worry, it's at the bottom).

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