22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Funny, over-the-top horror,
This review is from: The People Under The Stairs [DVD]  (DVD)
I've always gotten a kick out of this movie. The story line is original (or at least it seems so to me). The gore is startling in a couple of scenes but isn't overpowering. The acting is outrageously over the top but also is endearing.
Thirteen-year-old Fool (Brandon Ames) finds himself in a large suburban house owned by the two slum lords who are about to evict his sick mother and others from a ghetto tenement. He's in the house because he agreed to help two burglars make a score on treasure they heard was hidden there. Unfortunately for Fool (and his two grown-up accomplices), the owners are a brother and sister who call each other Mommy and Daddy. The man (Everett McGill) is a homicidal maniac who goes in for head-to-toe, studded, black leather bondage suits and pump action, single barrel shotguns. His sister (Wendy Robie) is just as looney and just as murderous, a screaming dominatrix. They also have a large vicious dog you wouldn't want to hand feed...that is, unless you had a hand to feed it.
Fool finds hidden in the house a young girl, Alice, who he thinks is the pair's daughter. He also finds a number of boys, stolen when they were children and a few perhaps the product of Mommy and Daddy themselves. They've had their tongues cut off and ears chopped. Seems they were part of Mommy and Daddy's deep need for a perfect child...and when they didn't measure up, off with the tongues so they couldn't shout for help, and down they were put to the basement. They seem to have been fed by Daddy on the butchered parts of unfortunate salesmen and meter readers. It becomes a race for Fool to find a way out, rescue Alice and the people under the stairs, locate the treasure and see that Mommy and Daddy get what's coming to them. And after him is a relentless Daddy, with Mommy urging Daddy on.
What makes this movie work for me are three things. First, the set-up in which the hero is a kid, and the horror is what has happened to other kids. Second, Brandon Adams' performance as Fool. He does an excellent job playing a fast-thinking, brave, resourceful young boy. And last, there is the Grand Guignol performances of Everett McGill and Wendy Robie. They are so over the top, so demented and so murderous that I never know whether to laugh or sit stunned at their doings.
Once the premise is established and the characters are known, the movie does become one long set of narrow escapes through the house, and the house appears to have an infinite number of secret openings, narrow passages, sliding stair cases and slamming doors. Still, the movie works for me.
The DVD's picture is very good; so's the sound.