The People Under the Stairs

Two adults and a juvenile burglar break into a house occupied by a brother and sister and their stolen children and become trapped – IMdB

Written and directed by the late-great Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), and released in 1991, The People Under the Stairs is a horror-comedy classic that holds a dear place in my heart. It is so treasured I still own the VHS.

The hero of the piece is a young boy called Fool (Brandon Adams) who is forced to participate in the robbery of a local landlord to save his family from eviction and get his sick mother the operation she desperately needs.

Ving Rhames, Brandon Adams & Jeremy Roberts

Aided by the local thugs, Leroy (Ving Rhames) and Spenser (Jeremy Roberts) Fool attempts to infiltrate the house and abscond with the landlord’s gold coin collection.

From the ‘get-go’ you know things aren’t going to go accordingly to plan, and it’s not long before Fool finds himself trapped in the house being hunted by a gimped-up landlord with a shotgun, his highly strung sister and a Rottweiler named Prince.

Not that Prince…

The robbery gone wrong soon turns into a rescue mission when Fools meets Alice, a young girl who kept against her will, and the strange boys under the stairs…

For me, this movie represents a perfect balance of horror and comedy, only resorting to Home Alone styled slapstick on a couple of occasions.

Despite being a comedy, the film isn’t stingy on showing a bit of blood and gore. One of the scenes that got to me most as a child was when the mother slides Alice across a pool of blood, forcing her to scrub up the mess, then promptly plunges her into a scalding bath.

The casting is also pretty spot on, the two villains (Everette McGill and Wendy Robie) seem to play their parts with glee, managing to come off both sinister and comical.

Everette McGill & Wendy Robie

The other supporting adults more than hold their own with Ving Rhames putting in a memorable performance as one of the hapless thugs, who may or may not have a job lined-up as one of Donald Trump’s cabinet.

 

The casting shines with the child actors, Brandon Adams and A.J Langer. Adams, perfectly cast as Fool the plucky kid with a heart of gold who just wants to do right by his family, while Langer plays the downtrodden, timid daughter well.

Some of you may recognise Langer from her stint on the short-lived TV show My So Called Life, where she played Angela Chase’s free-spirited best friend, Rayanne Graff.

 

A.J Langer as Alice & Rayanne Graff

All in all, I would give this movie a warped rating of 8/10. It’s fun, easy to watch, and has a great cast.

Also if you were lucky enough to watch this as a kid, it would also bring bucket loads of nostalgia when giving it a re-watch.

Warped Corners rating 8/10

Buy on Amazon

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