Monday, 2 July 2012

The People Under the Stairs

"The People Under the Stairs" (1991, Wes Craven, Universal Pictures) is a fun little horror about a sick couple. It's also a comment on racism and child abuse. But don't let that put you off!

A young boy living in the ghetto, Poindexter aka 'Fool' (Brandon Adams), lovingly nicknamed by his older sister as whenever she reads his Tarot cards the Fool card always comes up, decides to get involved in a robbery in order to help his family. His mother is sick, his sister, Ruby, is a young mother and his family are about to be evicted from their home unfairly. The landlords, The Robesons, are Fool and his friend Leroy's (Ving Rhames) target.

The Robesons are a creepy, incestuous couple, who keep their daughter Alice (A.J. Langer) locked up in her room. Alice behaves herself as she is painfully aware of what will happen to her if she misbehaves.

As is predictable, Mr. and Mrs. Robeson (Everett McGill and Wendy Robie) hide behind 'faith' to tell themselves that the evil they commit is ok. The couple are portrayed amazingly by McGill and Robie; manic and crazy.

In the basement are the Robeson's old children. See, they like to snatch babies and then when the children get too old or begin to display 'misbehaviour', they cut off the offending part (wicked tongues, eavesdropping ears...) and then throw them into the cellar to live like animals. They also feed them intruders, visitors and door-to-door sales people. So far, all the kids in the basement are boys. Alice is the only girl.

One child, a smart and manic kid called Roach (Sean Whalen) has escaped the cellar and now lives in the walls of the house. Roach is awesome! He is constantly being hunted by Daddy Robeson (who likes to wear a gimp suit for hunting...) with a rifle. Roach is Alice's only friend.

Fool finds himself in trouble when he and Leroy find their partner in crime dead and then cannot escape the house before the Robesons return. Leroy, being a big man, doesn't last long as he can't sneak about like Fool can.

Fool manages to escape (with the loot!) but can't live knowing poor Alice and all those crazy mutilated kids are still in that house, and goes back in to save the day. Does he make it? Watch and see!

Adams gives an enjoyable performance as our young hero.

A nicely paced movie with lots of jumps. The kids in the cellar like to jump out at opportune moments. Prince the bloodthirsty dog is a nice addition, too. Although, if you don't want to see a fake dog get stabbed through a wall with a machete.... I'm just sayin'.

A nice cheesy happy ending manages not to ruin the film. The cellar kids manage to sneak out into the big bad world, but they neglect to grab any of the free money. Dolts! Plus, they all look like gollum with hair, surely someone spotted them?!

Another small issue I have with this flick is that all the kids look about the same age. Surely they didn't steal 15 - 20 babies at the same time?

But on the good side, some blood, angry puppies, knives, guns, crazy religious people, incest, cannibalism, robbery, good intentions and explosives; what's not to like?

Worth a look, don't expect to be scared though.

[Picture: Universal Pictures]

Hani