Directed by Wes Craven, The People Under the Stairs is an early 90’s gore fest, highlighted by the maniacal performances of Wendy Robie and Everett McGill (yes, Ed and Nadine from Twin Peaks united again!) as the twisted villains.
Growing up in the slums of Los Angeles, a young boy nick named “Fool” (Brandon Adams) becomes desperate as his family is on the verge of eviction from their home and his mother is stricken with cancer – leaving no money for medical bills. A neighborhood gangster named Leroy (Ving Rhames) talks Fool into robbing his landlord’s home which is rumored to have a treasure trove of gold coins in the basement. Unbeknownst to Fool and Leroy, the home is occupied by a homicidal lunatic couple known as “Mommy” (Wendy Robie) and “Daddy” (Everett McGill). Mommy and Daddy have also rigged their house with traps and also keep a group of cannibal amputees in their basement. After Fool and Leroy infiltrate the home they quickly discover many grim secrets and become trapped in the never ending labyrinth of the home. After Leroy is killed by Daddy, it is up to Fool to escape the home and figure out how to save his family from financial peril.
While this film has its fair share of outlandish moments (Everett McGill in a ‘gimp suit’ for one) and disturbing bloodbaths, it is quite an enjoyable (if dated) ride. My favorite part of the film was the collective performances of Robie and McGill (yes, I know, I’m biased) as the frantic and crazed villains. I thought the film began to drag in the last half and would have benefitted greatly if ten minutes or so had been cut out along the way. If you are into gratuitous horror films, I think this is definitely an early 90’s hallmark of the genre.
3 stars out of 5