30 years ago I saw The  Pe ople Under the Stairs at the movies . (Yeah, I know, I just dated myself.) I probably only saw it because it had...

Movie: The People Under the Stairs (1991)

30 years ago I saw The People Under the Stairs at the movies. (Yeah, I know, I just dated myself.) I probably only saw it because it had Wes Craven's name attached and I'm a Nightmare on Elm Street fan. After talking with a friend about rewatching it he said, "all I remember is powdery white kids living in walls". He's not wrong. All I remembered was a man in a leather gimp suit, but I knew there had to be more to the story. I was so young I didn't understand the subtext, and I recently decided to watch it again. Oh boy is it timely!


Written like an urban fairy tale it follows the story of Poindexter aka Fool. He's a young poor black kid living in the Los Angeles ghetto with his sister Ruby, her kids, and their mom that has cancer. (Side note Ruby is played by Kelly Jo Minter, who I recognized from one of my favorite movies growing up, Summer School (1987). Summer School had the first representation of horror fans I ever remember seeing in a movie. Chainsaw and Dave were like me! I digress...) 

Their wealthy racist landlord wants to evict them for not paying rent and bulldoze their building over to make condos for "clean people". Ruby's friend Leroy finds out where the landlord lives and that they are hoarding money and rare gold coins. Leroy and his friend recruit Fool to help them break into the property owners house and steal the goods, but little do they know about the crazies that live there! 

You are meant to believe it's a husband and wife, played by Everett McGill and Wendy Robie both of whom played a married couple on Twin Peaks too. (I completely forgot they were in this movie.) As a couple they are paranoid gun-toting 1940s styled weirdos and drive home the comedic aspects of the movie with overacting and oddball delivery. They have a captive "daughter" named Alice, not to mention the many throwaway and mutilated boys that are in a pen in the basement. Don't worry the story has a happy ending.

Twin Peaks.

The People Under the Stairs.

I'm not going to give the whole movie away, but what I took from watching it as an adult was how relevant the theme is to today's society. It covers gentrification and the wealthy becoming obscenely rich and greedy, which leads them to doing insane things. (Can I just mention Elon Musk's son has the name of a robot?) It also covers what it means to be masculine and class divisions. It's no wonder Jordan Peele has jumped on doing a remake

Overall, this movie seems a little confused and covers a lot of territory. It's horror, black comedy, and political satire all rolled into one. Does it work? Honestly, I'm not sure. I guess it depends what your background is and what you bring to it. I thought it was less comedy and the story needs a little smoothing out? This is one movie I'm actually looking forward to as a remake. Sorry Craven, I give it a three out of five skull rings.

Here's the trailer...

A couple of trigger warnings. 1. They say the "n" word. It's said once in the beginning and I cringed and it's awful. 2. A dog dies. It happens quick and you don't see too much, but you do see his little dead face. 3. Alice is physically abused.