It’s been forever since I’ve seen Wes Craven’s 1991 horror remake of Home Alone, titled The People Under the Stairs. I could barely remember anything about the movie, save for a kid that gets trapped inside a house, and a man in a gimp suit, running around and shooting up the walls. Of course, I’m only kidding when I say the movie is a remake of Home Alone, but you got to admit, the movie does have a lot in common with the 1990 film. You got tons of traps, two quirky adults, a rambunctious kid thwarting the no gooders at every corner, a killer dog and of course cannibalism. Although, I don’t remember if Home Alone had a killer dog or not. It’s definitely a different type of film, with dashes of comedy, gore, and weird brother/sister bonding. The film plays at a fast pace, not once slowing down, and besides a few cheesy scenes near the end, it’s one of Wes Craven’s top films. Scream Factory has gone and done it again, releasing a wonderful Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of the movie, with lots of interviews and behind the scenes features. You’ll be very busy with this one folks…
RUN-TIME: 103 min
ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1
AUDIO: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
PRODUCTION DATE: 1991
RELEASE DATE: Aug 11th, 2015
Wes Craven, the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, takes you on a terrifying journey inside the most demented house on the street. Trapped inside a fortified home owned by a mysterious couple, a young boy is suddenly thrust into a nightmare.
The boy quickly learns the true nature of the house’s homicidal inhabitants and the secret creatures hidden deep within the house.
Starring Everett McGill (Twin Peaks, Dune), Wendy Robie (Twin Peaks), Brandon Adams (The Mighty Ducks), Ving Rhames (Piranha 3D, Mission: Impossible), A.J. Langer (Escape From L.A.) and Sean Whalen (Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, Hatchet III), The People Under The Stairs will grab you when you least expect it… and never let go.
All it took was the potential of finding gold in the creepy old house on the block, for the aptly named Fool (real name isn’t much better – Poindexter) to join a couple of robbers and break into the house. Unbeknownst to them, the house’s owners are two psycho cannibals, who keep a boat load of children locked up in the basement. The house is also full of hidden passages, traps and a crazy, mute kid named Roach. Fool gets trapped in the house, and fights for his life, with the help of the homeowners daughter, Alice (A.J. Langer.) She shows him the way through the walls, whilst avoiding Daddy (Everett McGill) in a gimp suit, as he runs around with a shotgun, blasting the place up. Also hot on his trail is Prince, a viscous dog, with a belly full of would-be-robber. This is a crazy movie folks, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of it with my description above.
When I was younger, most of the cheesy comedy bits of The People Under the Stairs didn’t really phase me much. Now though, having “grown up,” I find some of these seems out of place. One minute, you’ll be laughing as a brick hits the bad guys head, and the next, you’ll be grimacing, as a body is craved up and fed to a bunch of deformed children. It really does skirt along a bunch of different genres, and for the most part it does work, but there are a few times where I felt like I probably shouldn’t be laughing. Also, having come out in the early 90s, we do get that lovely dated look. (The 80s was over and the 90s hadn’t really started yet.)
Performances are key in a movie like this, and the two main villains of the film are played wonderfully by Everett McGill and Wendy Robie. They are a bunch of crazy bastards, calling each other Mommy and Daddy. They are into bondage and gun collecting, so you know, your average homeowner in the early 90s. I absolutely loved McGill’s performance in this movie. He’s one crazy son of a bitch.. Wendy Robie isn’t no slouch either, as she is a bona fide nut job. Those eyebrows alone are the stuff of nightmares. Our hero of the piece, played by Brandon Adams, does a good job, but some of the lines he has to delivery are certainly cheese approved. Although, that really isn’t a fault to his acting skills, but more a problem of the film being a product of its time.
Could The People Under the Stairs be better? Of course. The movie could’ve added in a little more horror, and a little less comedy. Also, the ending could’ve been way better, but you know what, maybe if things were different, we might not be talking about the movie this day and age. It’s got a certain charm to it, and honestly, it never felt dull. Sometimes a movie can combine a few different genres and succeed, other times they fail, but I like to think The People Under the Stairs falls proudly into the former category.
For the most part, when you see the words Collector’s Edition written on the slipcover of a Scream Factory release, you know you’re getting something good and The People Under the Stairs is no different. The video quality of film is filled with a lovely grain throughout, and I did not notice any sort of digital tinkering. The disc also houses two audio options, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. I watched the movie in 5.1 sound and I pleased to say the rear channels actually get a good amount of use this time around. More often than not, the rears are abandoned on these older films, but this time around, the track is lovely sounding.
Special Features are also treated nicely, with plenty of interviews included. You have a roughly 19 minute interview with Wendy Robie, which was a nice one to watch. There are other interviews with the FX people, Director of Photography and composer, but it would’ve been nice to get some more with the other actors of the film, especially Everett McGill, who is sorely missing. Rounding everything else out is some Behind the Scenes footage, which shows off some of the makeup effects, trailer, still galleries, TV spots and a vintage “Making Of,” which only runs a few minutes. Not counting the commentaries, which there is two of (Writer/Director Wes Craven commentary and audio commentary with Actors Brandon Adams, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen and Yan Birch,) you’ll be looking at roughly an hour or so of features to go through. Not bad.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
- Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Wes Craven
- Audio Commentary With Actors Brandon Adams, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen And Yan Birch
- House Mother – An Interview With Actress Wendy Robie
- What Lies Beneath – Interviews With Special Make-up Effects Artists Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger And Robert Kurtzman
- House Of Horrors – An Interview With Director Of Photography Sandi Sissel
- Setting The Score – An Interview With Composer Don Peake
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage
- Vintage “Making Of” Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Still Galleries (Original Storyboards And Official Stills)
The People Under the Stairs is a great movie by Wes Craven, but it’s certainly not a masterpiece. The movie will feel like a comedy one minute, and a horror film the next, and as I’ve already mentioned, for the most part it works. There is a few cheesy scenes, but the acting from the two baddies is something that will stick with you for a long time. I myself love the movie, and feel that if you haven’t given it a chance yet, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition release is the best way of giving it a shot. I think you won’t be disappointed if you do.