The People Under The Stairs
Viewed – 08 November 2013 Blu-ray
I remember loving this entry in director Wes Craven’s admirable output several years ago … its clever idea of suburban hell and enough gore and creepiness to keep your nerves thread bare. It tells the tale of ghetto teenager ‘Fool’ who with his mother dying of cancer, teams up with a petty crook (Ving Rhames) to break into the house of the local wealthy property owner and his wife. Yet a seemingly straight forward plan as you can imagine goes horribly wrong, and they stumble upon a very macabre secret.
Genre king Wes Craven delivers again. As the director of cult favourites A Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream, you can expect a degree of skill to the chills and frights, even if for the most part this plays out more like an adventure, with Fool transported into another world, that of the labyrinthine house and its many traps and secrets – its like he’s entered an episode of The Crystal Maze at times. Playing the couple is Twin Peaks stalwarts Everett McGill and Wendy Robie who are both wonderfully nuts … and pretty much make the movie for me. Also as their nervous daughter Alice, A J Langer is quite heart-breaking and very believable. Yet Brandon Adams as Fool, a few corny lines aside is a revelation for such a young actor – did he go onto anything else?
This movie is quite silly in places, and sometimes its more funny than genuinely scary – but I’ll go on record as saying it remains one of the more inventive horror movies of the 90s, and for Wes Craven, possibly his most interesting creation.
The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is very pleasing. The image is detailed and colourful (Ving Rhames’ hat in the van looks astonishing…) and although at times a little softness rears its head – overall I was very pleased. Audio is acceptable in uncompressed 2.0 stereo and the many sound effects inside the house still work well. Extras consist of a (moderated) commentary by Brandon Adams, as well as several featurettes and interviews. Most interestingly we also get a collectable booklet and a reversible sleeve with specially created new art work. An impressive package by all means.
(the movie) 3.5 /5
(the Blu-ray) 4 /5