Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Movie Review: "The People Under the Stairs" (1991)

Director: Wes Craven
Year: 1991
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

After he learns his family is being evicted from their apartment, a young boy called Fool gets convinced by a couple of criminals to help them rob the house of the landlord who is evicting his family. They believe this wealthy couple is hiding a stash of valuable gold coins, but they are in no way prepared for what they may actually find and will be lucky to get out alive.

Criminals, cannibals, and gun-toting madmen in a leather-clad S&M outfit...what more could you want in a horror movie? "The People Under the Stairs" comes to us from the twisted mind of legendary horror writer/director Wes Craven, who is known for his legendary films "The Last House on the Left," "A Nightmare on Elm Street," and of course, his most terrifying film of all, "Music of the Heart." This film brings audiences to a more urban setting as two villainous slumlords, played by Everett McGill and Wendie Robie, try to exploit their tenants for financial gain. When one family is about to be evicted, a young boy called 'Fool,' played by Brandon Quintin Adams, is convinced by his sister's boyfriend, played by Ving Rhames, to break into the home of these slumlords. It is rumored they have a stash of gold coins worth a fortune hidden somewhere in their house. When these burglars finally break in, they discover these people are not only slumlords but outright maniacs who kidnap children and have people locked in their basement, people that they feed human flesh. The burglars also find that getting out will be a lot harder than getting in.

"The People Under the Stairs" combines horror and violence with a little bit of dark humor to make one crazy movie. Since the main protagonist is a kid, there's almost a "Home Alone" style vibe with a bit of a twist to is. The only difference is this time, it's the kid who breaks into the booby-trapped house. Fool is still trying to outwit a couple of adults with the occasional physical assault or two, but only now, the adults kidnap children, murder people, keep cannibals in their basement, and are implied to have an incestuous relationship, so essentially "Home Alone" on steroids and crack. Fool regularly drops comedic quips and occasionally punches people in the dick, which all seems to be played for laughs, but hey, that's Wes Craven for ya!

We enjoyed "The People Under the Stairs" overall and found it to be quite entertaining. There are some elements that feel a bit contrived and a little cliche, and there are a couple more that don't really make a whole lot of sense. As we were watching, we thought, "damn, that kid makes a lot of noise for someone who is trying to hide," but it didn't bother us too much because the rest of the film is so bizarrely wonderful. It is actually the tongue-in-cheek performances of Everett McGill and Wendie Robie that really makes this movie so successful. Their characters are so wildly over the top that it makes the whole experience a ton of fun. Add a hefty dose of humor to the gore, strangeness, and excellent characters, and you've got a recipe for success.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 73%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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