Hello, hello, my happy little horrors. It’s Friday yet again, are you ready for some frightful fun? This week we’re going to kick it 90’s style, with a fun little flick by horror Master Wes Craven. One of the most prolific purveyors of fright films, Craven has churned out the blood and guts for over 40 years. He’s created some of the best known horror, and one of the most recognizable villains of all time, Freddie Krueger. Though I’m sure we’ll get around to chatting about The Nightmare on Elm Street series at some point, tonight we are taking a look at one of my favorite black comedies/horror movies, The People Under the Stairs.
With a base story line that could seem like something torn from the pages of a Jack Ketchum novel, Wes Craven proves his Master status by getting us to titter in the face of terror, and down right torture. The People Under the Stairs is as twisted as they come, spinning a story about a down and out family, that decide to rob their land lords in a fit of desperation. With an ill Mother, and facing eminent eviction, 13 year old Poindexter ‘Fool’ Williams (played by Brandon Quintin Adams) is convinced to help 2 of his Sister Ruby’s furtive friends, Leroy and Spenser (Ving Rhames & Jeremy Roberts), who promise to split a fortune in gold coins rumored to be inside the fortress like manor of their building’s owners.
Once inside, Fool quickly realizes that they’ve bitten off far more than they can chew. Billed only as Man and Woman (perfectly cast in the roles are Everett McGill & Wendy Robie), his land lords bring new meaning to maniacal; being both Husband & Wife, and Brother & Sister (as if being greedy racists wasn’t bad enough). Hell bent on having the perfect family, with the perfect children that speak no evil, hear no evil and see no evil, they have been kidnapping kids for years. The ones that don’t make the cut are thrown into the basement for uh…safe keeping. Getting in was hard, but Fool finds getting out turns out to be even harder. Though, He finds an ally in the one child that has managed to please Mama and Papa, Alice, who is played by A.J. Langer.
The film plays like a fubared fairytale, where Robin Hood must match wits with two sadistic, incestuous Sheriffs. I’ve always been creeped out by couples that call each other Mommy and Daddy, especially when the kids aren’t around, but these two bring my squick factor to new heights. Dressed like a doll, sweet Alice pulls at your heart strings, being down-trodden but not broken in the house of horrors she has been raised in. Bravely finding ways to help our hero, despite the threat of brutal punishment.
There had been talks of remakes on this Fiendish Flick, which I feel would be a mistake. The movie stands the test of time and remains one of my faves in Wes Craven’s arsenal. So, my darling devils, what is your favorite Craven creation?