The People Under the Stairs

Year: 1991
Directed By: Wes Craven
Written By: Wes Craven


I don’t really think this is a good movie but I think it is undeniably creepy and thus a good horror movie. The movie falls short with a weak story that just really rubs me the wrong way. I can’t love a movie about a young child wants to grow up to be a doctor but is instead “taught the trade” of breaking and entering. Nevertheless the scares come relentlessly in this one and they are unique. A good horror movie from a master of horror Wes Craven.

The story in this movie isn’t a good one per say, but it serves as a means for getting victims into this terrifying home. A home that is seemingly inescapable once entered and features a prowling carnivorous Rottweiler, a moaning ghoulish guy hiding in the walls, booby traps around every corner, and a basement full of cannibals. The owners of the house also manage to rival Leatherface’s people as possibly the scariest family of all time. There is no woman scarier than Kathy Bates in Miserybut Wendy Robie is a close second as the woman in this film.

Listed in the credits simply as “woman”, Robie is fearsome in the part. The mild mannered look she has to go along with her sudden ferocity is terrifying. She had a short lived career in film but if nothing else she deserves plenty of credit for this role. It is virtually impossible to predict what she will do no matter the circumstances she is in on screen, and when she does make a move it is enough to make your blood turn cold. Along side her brother, “daddy,” she is even scarier. Played by Everitt McGill, the man is so violent and intimidating. When he is running around the house in a gimp suit blasting a shotgun into the walls it’s scary as hell. He approaches the opportunity for cruelty with an excitement that reminds me of Jethro on the Beverly Hillbillies. It’s the childish enthusiasm to violence that makes him even scarier beyond his appearance.

I think this is a scary movie but it leaves me with a bad feeling inside. I guess that is what a good horror movie does but this one doesn’t do it right. It’s scary yeah but the story is altogether just off putting and I don’t care for it. The kid that plays the star is quick to be a badass but I just can’t get past my frustration that he is discouraged from achievement and turned so quickly toward crime. He’s literally intimidated into compliance by Ving Rhames, who plays a real ass.

I think this movie is cool for the season but otherwise I’d leave it alone. I had only seen this movie once before and found it impressive because it had so many unique horror elements and I thought it was scary. I had looked forward to seeing it a second time to review it for the blog but found the experience and overall disappointment. It’s good if you are looking for something scary but falls short of you want entertainment to go with it.

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