The People Under the Stairs - Collector's Edition (Blu-Ray) : Release Year - 1991
Overall Rating : 8/10
Directed By : Wes Craven
Brandon Quintin Adams (The Mighty Ducks)
Ving Rhames (Piranha (2010) )
Sean Whalen (Caesar and Otto's Paranormal Halloween)
Kelly Jo Minter (Popcorn)
Trapped inside a fortified home owned by a mysterious couple, a young boy is suddenly thrust into a nightmare.
The boy quickly learns the true nature of the house's homicidal inhabitants and the secret creatures hidden deep within the house.
Imagine learning that you, and your family are soon to be evicted, and that your mom has cancer, all on your 13th Birthday. These are just the things that a young teenage boy named Poindexter, faces in Wes Craven's THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. Poindexter(otherwise known as his nickname "Fool", by just about everyone.), is faced with a dilemma. He must find a way to make quick cash, or else his family will be out on the street. It is at this point that his sister Ruby's boyfriend LeRoy, proposes a solution to Fool - rob the wealthy landlord. It is rumored that the evil landlord and her partner possess a rather expensive gold coin collection, one worth thousands, and one that would surely get Fool and his family out of debt. Armed with floor plans, and donning several disguises, both Leroy and Fool, along with LeRoy's friend Spencer, try to make their way into the landlord's well guarded home, but to no avail. After a few failed attempts, they eventually find their way inside, however, they would soon wish that they never had, when the house's dark secret is revealed. As it turns out, the landlord, and her equally twisted brother, behind closed doors, have fabricated for themselves "a family", one that includes a "daughter" named Alice. In addition to this, they have had many failed attempts to add a male child into the fold. Failed attempts that the two keep tucked away in the cellar located underneath the stairs. In the end, now trapped inside the old house, Fool must make his way through the house, escaping his own capture as he hopes to remain above ground.
If you are any sort of die hard Horror fan, there is a good chance that you have seen the Wes Craven directed, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. Since its initial release in 1991, it has become a bit of a cult film, and rightfully so. While retaining Craven's brand of Horror, the film also infuses both an urban influence, and atmosphere, along with quirky humor, to create something truly unique. And now, some 24 years later, the film still holds up quite well.
I feel that the film's durability is attributed to a number of things, most importantly is it's atmosphere, and the performances by members of its cast. The atmosphere is key here. Playing it's own part here, is of course the house of the brother and sister landlord team. Of course they are eccentric, but even still, the much talked about legend of the house proceeds them. The house, a former funeral home, has been the subject of many tales over the years. The house has been passed down over the years, and through many generations, it's inhabitants carry with them a history of wealth and greed. Another thing that is said, is that the inhabitants were very secretive, which is not unlike the current owners, the landlord and her brother. They keep the house safe and secure, barring the windows and doors, in an attempt to keep anyone from getting inside. It's a clear sign that something sinister is going on inside(and as we find, there is indeed.). The house(which was located on a soundstange during filming), creates a rather ominous feeling, that is worthy of its legend. On the inside, with many rooms, and crawlspaces and such, also presented, is the perfect maze of terror. So yes, the setting is as big a star as any in the film.
The acting in the film, brings the film up to another level. While most of the film has a gritty urban feel to it, the characters, especially the film's villains have a certain colorfulness to them that really bring them alive on screen. Here, you just have to love the brother and sister pairing, known to us, simply as "Man" and "Woman"(no real names are ever given). They are akin to a more twisted version of the Addams Family, with a pinch of the Sawyers from THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE thrown in for good measure. In other words, yes, they're dark, they're grim, but they are also pretty damn funny as well. Actress Wendy Robie as the aforementioned "woman", truly embraces her sinister character and here, makes the most of it. Together with her "Twin Peaks" co-star Everett McGill(as "Man", of course), create a Horror couple that is just undeniable. They are two characters who are not to be forgotten by anyone who sees this film. And other memorable characters are of course, "Fool" (played by Brandon Quintin Adams), and the mysterious, "Roach"(as portrayed by Sean Whalen). The character of "Fool" is significant, not only because, here, he is a Horror hero of color, but also because he is also so young. Adams as the film's lead character, is able to create a character here that is at one point, both sympathetic, and courageous. In the end, we root for him to get out alive, which was the film's goal. Adams, who had previously appeared in Michael Jackson's MOONWALKER prior, and in the MIGHTY DUCKS films after, is one that many of us grew up with, and is really likable as an Actor. In the case of THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, he is no different. Appearing alongside Adams in THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, is Sean Whalen, as a character that since, as become somewhat iconic, in "Roach". In the film "Roach" is one of the villain couple's discarded "children", however instead of staying within the holding cell in the cellar beneath the stairs, he has defied his captors, and now roams freely inside the house's walls. With this role, Whalen, unable to speak, had to rely on, basically his emotions, and noise alone(Roach's captors cut out his tongue so he would not speak a word of their evil doings. Another thing I like about the film, is the play on the whole idea of "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil". It's pretty brilliant.).Whalen is able to successfully create, not only a character of sympathy, but one that we remember. There have been times that I have talked with people, who can't recall much of the film, yet they somehow remember the "Roach" character. That truly says something about his performance.
As I said, many are already likely very familiar with THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, so I felt that I shouldn't dwell on the plot much here. But with that said, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS still is a great film. And now 24 years, after its release, it is a film that has stood the test of time, and in my opinion, is one of Wes Craven's best.
Here, SCREAM! FACTORY presents THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS as a Collector's Edition Blu-Ray, loaded with special features, including 2 different commentaries, several featurettes, storyboards, a still gallery and trailers. As for the HD transfer that is featured on the disc, it is one that starts out a "overly-grainy", however, over time, it seems to balance itself out, resulting in a print that looks pretty good overall. It's a definitely step up from the DVD.
The special features are as follows :
"House Mother - With Wendy Robie" - (19m 26s) :
Actress Wendy Robie talks about auditioning for the film during a break from "Twin Peaks", working with Wes Craven, as well as helping out the younger cast members while on set. This is a very good piece with the Actress who seems to have really enjoyed the role, and being a part of the film
"What Lies Beneath - The Effects of THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS" - (15m 2s) :
A featurette featuring an interview with the KNB Effects crew; Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger. The guys recall their beginnings and how it was that they came to work on THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, along with how the actual "people" came to be designed.
"House of Horrors - With Director of Photography Sandi Sissel" - (16m 9s) :
DP Sandi Sissel sets down for an interview, as she tells us how Director Wes Craven discovered her work, and what it was like to shoot this film, her first Horror film.
"Settling the Score - With Don Peake" - (10m 13s) :
Composer Don Peake talks about his beginnings with The Everly Brothers and Phil Spector, and how he broke into film scoring with the Steve McQueen film, BABY THE RAN MUST FALL, and then later scoring the original THE HILLS HAVE EYES for Craven, and how 20 years later, he ended up working on THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, as he replaced the original composer.
6.5/10 After the original score for the film needed to be replaced, Composer Don Peake and his son, had all of three days to complete the score. The end result, however is great stuff. Using synthesizer and other means of common tones, Peake, here creates a score that is both suspenseful and atmospheric. It really adds to the film in a positive way.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS is a film that you come away from, being really entertained by. It has a blend of Horror and comedy that is long lasting, as evidenced by this Collector's Edition Blu-Ray release. If you happen to be s fan of THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, then this release would be ideal for your collection. Not only do you get the film, but also plenty of material, which cover the making of. I recommend.
Special Features include :
- Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Wes Craven
- Audio Commentary With Actors Brandon Adams, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen And Yan Birch
- House Mother - An Interview With Actress Wendy Robie
- What Lies Beneath - Interviews With Special Make-up Effects Artists Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger And Robert Kurtzman
- House Of Horrors - An Interview With Director Of Photography Sandi Sissel
- Setting The Score - An Interview With Composer Don Peake
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage
- Vintage "Making Of" Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Still Galleries (Original Storyboards And Official Stills)
This film will be released on Blu-Ray Combo Pack Collector's Edition on August 11, 2015