Go Back  DVD Talk Forum > DVD Discussions > DVD Reviews and Recommendations
Reload this Page >

"The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

DVD Reviews and Recommendations Read, Post and Request DVD Reviews.

"The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

Old 09-23-16, 10:19 PM
  #1  
DVD Talk Legend
Thread Starter
 
Chad's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Somewhere Hot Scoville Units: 9,999,999 Zodiac Sign: Capricorn
Posts: 10,899
"The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17





The People Under the Stairs (1991)



Selected by Dick Laurent



IMDB ENTRY

ALYXSTARR LINK

ALYXSTARR LINK W/ COMMENTARY #1

ALYXSTARR LINK W/ COMMENTARY #2

_______________________________________


These "October Horror Movie Challenge" threads are for the discussion of the films in the 31 FILM SUBSET list.

The plan is for everyone to watch this film on the October day in the thread title, and to start discussing it the morning of the following day.
You may start discussion early if you want, but the preferred plan is for this to be as much of a group exercise as possible, with all of us viewing it "together" and discussing after.

Of course, you are totally encouraged to participate in these threads even if you haven't watched the movie on the designated day.
Even if you haven't watched it in years, or are not participating in the Horror Challenge, please feel free to chime in.



Spoiler tags aren't always used in here, so if you have yet to see the film BEWARE OF POSSIBLE SPOILERS.
_______________________________________



S
P
O
N
S
O
R
E
D

B
Y




















S
P
O
N
S
O
R
E
D

B
Y



2016 DISCUSSION | 2016 LISTS


Last edited by Chad; 11-05-16 at 06:05 PM.
Chad is offline  
Old 10-17-16, 12:14 PM
  #2  
DVD Talk Platinum Edition
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 3,446
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

I really liked The People Under the Stairs - it's suspenseful with the siblings being well acted. The actors, soundtrack, and set design really make it work despite some really odd aspects like the random gimp suit or that the kids are somehow now just zombie-like. These things initially made me dismiss People when I'd seen it years ago but this year it's probably one of my favorites. This film has got a polished sense of 'spirit' fully immersing itself in even awkward plot elements to the degree it works altogether.

The lead's nickname being 'fool' is a brilliant move and he gives it a nice sense of childhood wonder. Some of the house environments seem more like an amusement ride than any sort of actual house and so much of it occurring in giant wall spaces, even featuring elaborate chutes, seems unconvincing but overall the environment and tension is enough to suspend disbelief. These over the top set traps also help give way to the wide eyed wonderment and dark fantasy from Fool's perspective.

It's smart that the villains here are not the 'zombies,' the kid living in the wall, or even the burglars but instead the rich white people. Ving Rhames might be the nicest thief ever here - I kind of wanted him to teach me how to rip people off; People might take too many liberties with shades of grey or be trying to show that there's not matter how despicable one it there's always someone more evil (?). It's a clever idea to have the wealthy really be fiends but also a bit syrupy in that they're racing off against the anguished youth of cancer patients. Unless this is to imply that the captors here are actually some subtle demonic hellspawn or supernatural entity beyond comparison to human mortality - which might actually also explain some of the oddball elements, maybe there's hidden subtext.

Finding random dynamite as a pivotal plot point is a cop out but it seems to fit the 'style over substance' approach to the film overall.

Last edited by Undeadcow; 10-17-16 at 02:25 PM.
Undeadcow is offline  
Old 10-18-16, 12:14 AM
  #3  
DVD Talk Gold Edition
 
rbrown498's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 2,226
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

Counter-point: I hate this movie.

Fueled by the movie's trailer, which made the film look like it could actually be very creepy, I paid my money and I took my chances twenty-five years ago, and Wes Craven laughed all the way to the bank. Tonight's viewing was my first since its theatrical run. To me, this film only works on a comedic level, and only sporadically at that. It's like Everett McGill was in a different movie than the rest of the cast, as it seemed that he was playing it entirely for laughs...which, in hindsight, was probably the ONLY way to play it. The kid that played Fool was really good, but I have to lodge the same complaint against The People Under the Stairs as ross r did in the Phantasm thread--the film has a 13-year-old protagonist, yet it's aimed at adult audiences. Someone once described Phantasm as an afterschool special gone waka-waka, and I'd level the same description at The People Under the Stairs. For me, though, that's where the comparisons end.

If Craven had found a suitable tone and stuck with it, the movie might have been salvageable, as it does have some pointed things to say about class exploitation. But it's all over the map, and the various tones clash with one another to the film's detriment. I think that it's just a godawfully bad film.
rbrown498 is offline  
Old 10-18-16, 12:51 AM
  #4  
Moderator
 
TheBigDave's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Florida
Posts: 10,332
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

It's strange. The first time I watched this (back in 1991), I remember it being more creepy and thrilling. Watching it again today, it seems like a comedy.
TheBigDave is online now  
Old 10-18-16, 01:54 AM
  #5  
DVD Talk Legend
 
PhantomStranger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: The Phantom Zone
Posts: 20,975
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

I have always liked The People Under the Stairs. There is definitely humor sprinkled throughout with a wink. It's a fairly unique script and concept for a horror film.
PhantomStranger is offline  
Old 10-18-16, 07:14 AM
  #6  
Challenge Guru & Comic Nerd
 
Trevor's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: spiritually, Minnesota
Posts: 34,061
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

Originally Posted by rbrown498 View Post
If Craven had found a suitable tone and stuck with it, the movie might have been salvageable, as it does have some pointed things to say about class exploitation. But it's all over the map, and the various tones clash with one another to the film's detriment. I think that it's just a godawfully bad film.
Agree that it's all over the map, but it somehow worked for me yesterday. FTV pretty sure.

But the more I consider it, the more I might regret ordering the BD. I'm just a sucker for special features, and will hopefully enjoy a day of delving into them.
Trevor is offline  
Old 10-18-16, 09:52 AM
  #7  
DVD Talk Platinum Edition
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 3,446
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

People like Motel Hell but dislike People Under the Stairs; different strokes for different folks but to me People is the 'oddball balance of humor and horror with far out elements' film Motel Hell could have been if it was more consistently good. Both People and Motel have some striking similarities (inexplicable zombie figures, a demented brother/sister, awkward balance of humor and horror, etc).
Undeadcow is offline  
Old 10-18-16, 10:14 AM
  #8  
Senior Member
 
numbercrunch's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: new orleans
Posts: 465
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

I watched the scream factory release and then listened to wes craven's commentary track. Wes Craven intended this film as a social commentary about the "haves' and the "have nots". I think because his name is Wes Craven people expect a horror movie but i think listening to him talk he seems like a college professor trapped in a horror directors body.
numbercrunch is offline  
Old 10-18-16, 12:54 PM
  #9  
DVD Talk Legend
 
PhantomStranger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: The Phantom Zone
Posts: 20,975
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

Originally Posted by numbercrunch View Post
I watched the scream factory release and then listened to wes craven's commentary track. Wes Craven intended this film as a social commentary about the "haves' and the "have nots". I think because his name is Wes Craven people expect a horror movie but i think listening to him talk he seems like a college professor trapped in a horror directors body.
He stumbled into making horror films almost by accident. Craven had aspirations to be a mainstream filmmaker, horror merely afforded him an opportunity to break into the business. Since he kept making hit horror films, Craven found it hard to break out of the genre in Hollywood.
PhantomStranger is offline  
Old 10-18-16, 01:14 PM
  #10  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 592
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

I usually love Wes Craven's movies, even the lesser ones, but really dislike this one. As has been said, the clash of tones and hit-and-miss social commentary don't work for me. I thought about listening to the commentary as I always enjoy his tracks, but didn't have a desire to sit through the movie again.
Shack is offline  
Old 10-18-16, 03:16 PM
  #11  
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Posts: 83
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

The People Under the Stairs is a re-watch for me, probably my third watch. I agree with BigDave. When it first came out, I thought it was creepy. When I watched again a few years ago, it felt like a slapstick comedy. It feels like a horror version of Home Alone. Home Alone came out a year before, and it seems like it influenced Wes Craven. There were so many head shots like sling shot to the head, and bricks to the head for comedic value. This movie is just more goofy every time I see it.
ross_r is offline  
Old 10-18-16, 06:16 PM
  #12  
DVD Talk Special Edition
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Lost Highway
Posts: 1,117
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

I think it works for what it's intended, as far as the "social commentary" aspect, but I agree about the boy being the lead in an adult-themed movie. For this one it's just weird.

This movie has always made me unsettled but I wasn't sure why. I recall enjoying it many years ago, but also remember being disturbed by it. I think with this viewing I figured it out: it's like Wes Craven was the antagonist to the kid.

Silly stuff happens and the kid plays it like a Home Alone film, which is good on him. But then this fun and well acted kid is put in the middle of some crazy adult stuff, and we're not talking just a coat made of Dalmatians. Never mind the "light" stuff like cannibalism and kidnapping, but how about the gimp-suit and the incest? When the girl was explaining about them trying to make a perfect boy and then having to cut the bad parts out and stick the disfigured kid in the basement, they both looked like they had no idea what they were really saying. But holy crap what a nightmare.

To me this plays sort of like Annie meets Candyman. I think it's good and I'll watch it again, but I'll always feel like in the back of my mind Wes was secretly getting back at some neighborhood kids that egged his front door. Overall I'm glad I have the Scream Factory release because no matter what it has good SFX and a great team working behind the scenes. Looking forward to the extras after Oct 31st of course.
Dick Laurent is offline  
Old 10-18-16, 07:14 PM
  #13  
DVD Talk Legend
 
DaveyJoe's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Maryland
Posts: 18,539
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17



The People Under the Stairs (1991)

Wes Craven's horror comedy about class warfare is truly bizarre. Starring Twin Peaks Everett McGill and Wendy Robie as brother/sister real estate moguls who like to kidnap neighborhood kids, this movie feels like it's inspired by David Lynch. Tonally, the film is all over the place, some moments are genuinely scary, as the film progresses it gets increasingly campy and funny. A young neighborhood kid known as Fool learns that his family is about to be evicted and his mother has cancer. He and a friend decide to break into the landlord's house to steal priceless coins. Thanks to a high tech security system, the pair get trapped in the house and have to survive a shotgun-wielding gimp, ravenous dogs, and basement-dwelling cannibals.

If you can handle the wildly shifting tones, you might find this to be pretty entertaining. McGill and Robie are a lot of fun to watch as they rant and rave through the halls of their old house. Their relationship feels incestuous, even if the film never comes out and says it. It's kind of weird to see a film deal with heavy themes like child abuse, racism, and gentrification also feature zombie creatures and slapstick comedy. I particularly enjoyed the eerie soundtrack and I thought the creatures in the basement were effectively creepy. A lot of people think the film is trying to do too much, but Craven has a long history of infusing comedy in his horror films. Freddy Krueger always had a lot of one-liners, and even the otherwise gritty and horrifying The Last House on the Left had the bumbling local police providing comedic relief. So I really don't think this is out of place in Craven's filmography.
DaveyJoe is offline  
Old 10-24-16, 12:28 AM
  #14  
DVD Talk Limited Edition
 
clckworang's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: The toe nail of Texas
Posts: 7,307
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

This was my second time watching this. I was very mixed on it the first time I saw it, leaning more toward not liking it. After my second viewing of it, I'm still mixed on it but am leaning more toward liking it.

It really is an odd mix of tones, and the slapstick comedy sometimes works much better than other times. It seems like the Everett McGill and Wendy Robie are having a ball playing their parts, though, and I think maybe that's a little infectious.
clckworang is offline  
Old 10-30-16, 05:49 PM
  #15  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Spiderbite's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Birmingham, AL
Posts: 13,191
Re: "The People Under the Stairs" Reviews/Discussion - 2016 Horror Challenge: Day 17

Originally Posted by rbrown498 View Post
Counter-point: I hate this movie.

Fueled by the movie's trailer, which made the film look like it could actually be very creepy, I paid my money and I took my chances twenty-five years ago, and Wes Craven laughed all the way to the bank. Tonight's viewing was my first since its theatrical run. To me, this film only works on a comedic level, and only sporadically at that.
Glad to see I am not the only one.

I saw this movie in the theater as well 25 years ago and walked out extremely disappointed because the trailer made it look so good (at least it did at the time). I think I tried watching them awhile back on DVD and turned it off and didn't even finish it.

I tried it with fresh eyes and a good attitude today and still disliked it. Fuck kid stars and being the heroes of movies. I just find it unrealistic and obnoxious. Every time the kid tried a one-liner or basically winked at the camera every other shot, I just wanted to groan in pain.

This movie isn't scary or funny. If it is supposed to be giving a sociological message, it gets lost on the way since (as someone else already compared it) you feel like you are watching Home Alone.

Not fan of this one at all.
Spiderbite is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service

Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.