Strangely enough to me there was a time when The People Under the Stairs wasn’t the best and most under-appreciated hip-hop group on the planet, that time was the mid 90s, when Wes Craven released this flawed but decent little horror flick too soon to have the
guarantee of commercial success that even the most mediocre of films seem to get these days – I mean come on Freddy Vs Jason made big bucks!
The hero of the tale is a 13 year old African-American boy with the unfortunate nickname of ‘Fool’, who is forced into taking desperate measures when his evil (white) landlords threaten to evict he, his Mum and Grandma unless they come up with a lot of cash quick fast in a hurry.
With not a lot of folding green on hand Fool allows himself to tag along with his Mum’s shady boyfriend Leroy (Ving Rhames), who decides to turn the tables on the well to do landlords and rob them.
But as is well known the rich didn’t get rich by being stupid – or in this case remotely sane – and Fool, Leroy and another accomplice realise this once they find themselves locked in the spacious old mansion. Fool states with wide eyed awe that the lush home is ‘big enough for 10 families’ and he is proven to be spot on, for this house does indeed shelter at least two very different yet equally deadly families, one family living in the main building, the other in a labyrinth of dank rooms and hidden areas… *DUN-DUN-DUNNNN* under the stairs.
The People Under the Stairs moves along quickly, it isn’t long before Fool finds himself alone and faced with the unenviable choice of staying above ground with the gun crazy (and frankly just plain crazy) family, or taking his chances with the mysterious and dangerous
looking inhabitants of the below stairs region. Complicating matters is the presence of a vicious attack dog controlled by the above ground family capable of pursuing him through the secret rooms, locked areas and mazes that proliferate the massive building.
But Fool ain’t no fool, he is a sharp and determined young lad who is both fleet of foot and swift of mind – he also looks like a young Michael Jackson – with so many sources of potential doom he must move quickly in order to stay alive…
In truth The People under the Stairs is a better concept than a finished film, and you wonder just what value the titular people served to the crazy above grounds by being kept alive. But it boasts a couple of decent gore scenes and has enough chase scenes taking place in the house that you don’t get bored. I was planning to grant it Worthwhile status for most
of the film, until a schlocky and tacky (for all the wrong reasons) ending left a sour taste in my mouth.
That said it is better than many so called classic horror films.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. Put another way, if it was on I wouldn’t shy away, but I wouldn’t bother hunting this film down.
I can wholeheartedly recommend Californian hip-hop duo People under the Stairs though!