Fool comes across Alice (A.J. Langer) whilst in the house, as well as a number of boys, who have had their tongues and ears cut off, hidden in the basement. It appears as though Mommy and Daddy always wanted to raise the 'perfect' child, and when these young children didn't measure up to size, they would ensure that they were both out of sight and out of mind in the most extreme way imaginable.
Fool must find a way of rescuing Alice and the people under the stairs, and also find his own way out to safety. Knowing that his vulnerable family will soon be out on the streets, he must also try to find the treasure that will reverse his family's fortunes, and ensure that his evil slumlords get what they deserve - without getting himself killed and fed to those living below the house.
Adams' performance as the young Fool is pretty good. He is a fast-thinking child who is in this horrific situation initially to help his family, but soon finds himself in the position where there are others who are also dependent on his actions. McGill and Robie both play the deliciously evil - and downright weird - Mommy and Daddy, whose actions are so demented, you're not quite sure whether you should be laughing or horrified by their actions.
As this would suggest, this is not an exclusively straight-up horror film. There are elements of comedy, which borders on the bizarre and creepy, and works quite well with the overall atmosphere of this film.
Finally, there is much to identify in terms of social commentary. Themes that are raised include issues of child abuse, racism and poverty - there is a lot more going on with this film than you might think at first glance.
This Arrow Blu ray release includes a good HD transfer of the film, the informative booklet that you would come to expect from the quality releases from Arrow, and a number of well-made special features. These include; Behind Closed Doors: Leading Lady featuring A.J. Langer; Slient But Deadly: Underneath The Floorboards, which looks at the lasting impact of the film; and Fear, Freud and Class Welfare, featuring director Craven himself.
The People Under The Stairs is available to buy now on UK Blu ray.
Review: The People Under The Stairs
By Andreas Charalambous - 17th November 2013
Another in a long line of horror films by Wes Craven that is seen with such fondness, The People Under the Stairs is a unique story centred around young protagonist, Fool (Brandon Quintin Adams).
As you would expect in any typical horror/morality tale, we know that every neighbourhood has a house which has a reputation that you should just steer clear of. In this instance, it's the suburban house owned by the slumlords (Everett McGill and Wendy Robie) who are in the process of evicting Fool and his sick mother from a tenement block in the ghetto.
Fool finds himself in the house as he agrees to help two burglars - one played by Ving Rhames - get their hands on treasures hidden inside. The owners, Mommy and Daddy (who are actually eyebrow-raisingly, siblings) appear to be more than the trio of thieves had bargained for.
Daddy is a maniac who has a taste for head-to-toe bondage gear (Not the first time Rhames will have to deal with a 'Gimp' in his acting career!) and pump-action shotguns. Mommy is just as crazy and murderous, as a shrieking dominatrix. As if this is not enough, they also have a vicious dog as the family pet.