Incest, Inbreeding, and Insanity. The People Under the Stairs broaches issues of racial disenfranchisement with such a depraved approach that you can’t help but laugh as much as you dry heave.
On his 13th birthday, Fool (Brandon Adams) is convinced by Leroy (Ving Rhames) to break into the large suburban home of his evil landlords. Just a young boy from the ghetto, Fool has no idea what his first criminal act holds in store for him and his future.
I saw this movie at two distinct stages in my life—pre- and post-puberty. More specifically, I viewed it the first time when I was about eleven, and I saw it the second time about ten years later. Allow me to take you through my different reactions to what I would consider to be, Craven’s unintentional masterpiece. I mean unintentional masterpiece in the way that a toddler might throw paint and spew his lunch on a table cloth, revealing a work of art that is so disgusting and charming that it is framed and sold in an art show for $24,000,000.
11 year-old me: This movie scared the crap out of me. I didn’t even understand the plot, the content, or the twists, but it gave me the creeps. At this time, there were three specific scenes that burned themselves into my brain.
1. When Alice (A.J. Langer) is forced into the steaming hot bath.
2. When the mother turns around in the kitchen.
3. When the man sets his dog loose inside the walls of the house to chase Fool.
21 year-old me: I found this movie to be more humorous the second time around. Isn’t that always the case with scary movies? It anyone? I also felt like there were social issues being subtly discussed in the film. However, I was also a senior in college, so I overanalyzed everything into a symbol and representation of social oppression. It was also this viewing that made me realize that I completely misunderstood the movie ten years prior. I did not even comprehend the meaning of the actual people under the stairs. The crazy man and woman were not just an insane married couple—they were brother and sister! The people under the stairs were all of their inbred and deformed children! BOOM.
This movie is a nice blast from the past. There are some truly odd scenes and troubled characters. Plus, you will be rooting for Fool every second of the way.