The People Under the Stairs

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This article is about the film. For the underground hip-hop group, see People Under the Stairs.
The People Under the Stairs
The People Under the Stairs Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Wes Craven
Produced by Shep Gordon
Wes Craven
Marianne Maddalena
Stuart M. Besser
Dixie Capp
Peter Foster
Written by Wes Craven
Starring Brandon Adams
Everett McGill
Wendy Robie
A. J. Langer
Ving Rhames
Sean Whalen
Music by Don Peake & Graeme Revell
Cinematography Sandi Sissel
Edited by James Coblentz
Production
company
Alive Films
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • November 1, 1991 (1991-11-01)
Running time 102 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million
Box office $31,347,154[2]

The People Under the Stairs is a 1991 American horror film written and directed by Wes Craven and starring Brandon Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, A. J. Langer, Ving Rhames and Sean Whalen.

Plot[edit]

Poindexter Williams, known as "Fool", is a resident of a Los Angeles ghetto. He and his family are being evicted from their apartment by their landlords, the Robesons. Leroy, a professional criminal, suggests to Fool that they rob the Robeson's residence for money. The Robesons, who refer to themselves as "Mommy" and "Daddy," live in a large home with their daughter, Alice, and their ruthless trained-to-kill dog, Prince.

Leroy, his associate Spenser, and Fool sneak into the Robeson's household by using Spenser to pose as a municipal worker. The Robesons leave the home shortly but Spenser doesn't return. Fool and Leroy break into the house to find him and Fool finds Spenser's dead body and a large group of strange pale children in a locked pen in a dungeon-like basement.

The Robesons return and Fool flees while Leroy is shot to death by Daddy. Fool runs into another section of the house, where he meets Alice. She tells him that the people under the stairs were children who broke the "see/speak/hear no evil" rules of the Robesons. The children have degenerated into cannibalism to survive and Alice has avoided this fate by obeying the rules without question. A boy named Roach whose tongue was removed also evades the Robesons by hiding in the walls.

Fool is discovered by Daddy and is thrown to the cannibalistic children to die. However, Roach helps Fool escape but succumbs to his wounds. As he dies, he gives Fool a small bag of gold coins and a written plea to save Alice. Fool reunites with Alice and the two escape into the passageways between walls. Daddy releases Prince into the walls to kill them. Fool tricks Daddy into stabbing Prince and he and Alice reach the attic where they find an open window above a pond. Unfortunately, Alice is too afraid to jump and Fool is forced to go without her. He promises to return for Alice.

Once home, Fool gives the coin to his grandfather Booker who tells him that the Robesons are not husband and wife but brother and sister, the last of a mortician family that built a fortune based on outrageous pricing and unscrupulous real estate deals. Greed and paranoia eventually drove them into inbreeding, and each generation has become increasingly unstable and psychotic. This makes Fool even more determined to save Alice.

Fool sneaks back into the house but is ambushed by the Robesons. He manages to fight them off and climbs towards the attic, where he finds Alice bound to the chimney. Alice warns him that Daddy has rigged the house with even more booby traps. They are captured by Daddy, but are saved when Ruby, Booker, and other friends from their neighborhood charge on the house. Fool goes to the basement to free the cannibal children. They are grateful to him and show him the Robeson's vault, where the Robesons have stashed their enormous stores of cash and gold, as well as a stockpile of explosives.

Mommy attempts to kill Alice but the cannibal children charge on her. Daddy finds Fool at the vault, where Fool sets off the explosives, which demolishes the house and causes the money to blow up through the crematorium chimney and into the crowd of people outside. Daddy is killed in the explosion and Alice and Fool reunite in the basement. Meanwhile, the people outside claim the money distributed by the blast, and the freed children venture into the night.

Cast (selected)[edit]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film opened at the #1 spot at the box office, taking in over $5.5 million that weekend, and stayed in the top 10 for a month until early December.[3] The film went on to gross over $24,204,154 domestically (U.S.) and $7,143,000 internationally, bringing its worldwide total to $31,347,154.[2]

Critical[edit]

The People Under the Stairs has received a mixed reception from critics. It currently holds a 56% 'rotten' rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on eighteen reviews.[4] Austin Chronicle wrote, "this is the work of the Wes Craven we came to admire".[5]

Possible remake[edit]

Craven at one point said he would like to remake the film along with The Last House on the Left and Shocker. However, after the release of the 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left, Craven has not since mentioned a remake of either The People Under the Stairs or Shocker.[6]

Release[edit]

Craven re-released the film as a double feature with The Serpent and the Rainbow on February 20, 2010 in the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California.[7]

Attractions[edit]

Universal Studios Florida incorporated some of the film's plot as well as the house into a haunted house several times for their annual Halloween Horror Nights event. It is also featured on the drive-in movie screen in the Twister...Ride It Out attraction.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]