a fortified home owned by a mysterious couple an impoverished young boy
is suddenly thrust into a nightmare.
the true nature of the house's homicidal inhabitants, the boy battles against
sadistic security devices, befriends an elusive and abused girl, and finally
learns the secret of the creatures hidden deep within the house.
"They are the craziest family you've ever heard
of. Every generation is more insane than the one
- Grandpa Booker
I've always gotten
a kick out of this movie. The story line is original (or at least it seems
so to me). The gore is startling in a couple of scenes but isn't overpowering
and the acting is outrageously over the top but also is endearing.
Fool finds himself in a large suburban house owned by the two slum lords
who are about to evict his sick mother and others from a ghetto tenement.
He's in the house because he agreed to help two burglars make a score on
treasure they heard was hidden there. Unfortunately for Fool (and his two
adult accomplices), the owners are a brother and sister who call each other
Mommy and Daddy. The man of the house is a homicidal maniac who goes in
for head-to-toe, studded, black leather bondage suits and pump action,
single barrel shotguns. His sister is just as loony and just as murderous,
a screaming dominatrix. They also have a large vicious dog you wouldn't
want to hand feed... that is, unless you had a hand to feed it.
Fool finds hidden
in the house a young girl, Alice, who he thinks is the pair's daughter.
He also finds a number of boys, stolen when they were children and a few
perhaps the product of Mommy and Daddy themselves. They've had their tongues
cut off and ears chopped. Seems they were part of Mommy and Daddy's deep
need for a perfect child... and when they didn't measure up, off with the
tongues so they couldn't shout for help, and down they went into the basement.
They seem to have been fed by Daddy on the butchered parts of unfortunate
salesmen and meter readers. It becomes a race for Fool to find a way out,
rescue Alice and the people under the stairs, locate the treasure and see
that Mommy and Daddy get what's coming to them. And after him is a relentless
Daddy, with Mommy urging Daddy on.
What makes this
movie work are three things. First, the set-up in which the hero is a kid,
and the horror of what has happened to the other kids. Second, Brandon
Adams' performance as Fool. He does an excellent job playing a fast-thinking,
brave, resourceful young boy. And last, there is the Grand Guignol performances
of Everett McGill and Wendy Robie. They are so over the top, so demented
and so murderous that you never know whether to laugh or sit stunned at
Once the premise
is established and the characters are known, the movie becomes one long
set of narrow escapes through the house, and the house appears to have
an infinite number of secret openings, narrow passages, sliding stair cases
and slamming doors. Still, the movie works fantastically.
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- The People Under the Stairs opened on November 1, 1991
and grossed $5,220,000 in it's first weekend.
- Wes Craven chose Wendy Robie and Everett McGill to play the parts
of Mommy and Daddy after seeing them play husband and wife on the TV series, Twin
- Grossed over $24,204,154 while in theaters. (USA)
- In 1992 Wes Craven won the Pegasus Audience Award for his work
on this film.
- In the scene where Alice shows Ruby (Fool's sister) the pantry, Ruby then
turns and walks towards the front door. If you keep your eyes on the actress
that plays Alice, you can see her break out of character for a moment and
then laugh in the background.
- Wes Craven was inspired to write this film after seeing a real-life
news story about parents who locked their children up inside their house,
never allowing them outside.