Some say, after a certain point in time, John Carpenter hit a downfall, and hasn’t made a movie that compares to his earlier work since that day. Those same people often neglect to mention that another “Master of Horror,” Wes craven, has had such a spotty career that it would be hard to even pinpoint his heyday. The People Under The Stairs is one of the good Craven titles. Sandwiched in-between the bad(Shocker) and the little-bit-better(New Nightmare) The People Under The Stairs is one of those early Nineties movies that stands the test of time. Though I have a nostalgic connection to the movie, that has little to do with my adoration for it.
Part of the charm of TPUTS is that Craven ventures somewhat outside of his comfort zone. Instead of pampered little white teenagers being terrorized because of the sins of their parents, we head into an inner city slum to watch the horror unfold. And it’s not your typical, racist, one-dimensional movie portrayals of people one might find dwelling within what some would call a “ghetto” either. All of the characters in this movie are interesting, and have a value of their own. The only really well known name in the cast is Ving Rhames, but the real star of this show is Brandon Quintin Adams(Who would later appear in The Sandlot and The Mighty Ducks) as Fool.
Another thing that elevates this to the top portion of the list of watchable Wes Craven films is the story itself. It’s downright creepy. To imagine a psychopathic brother and sister, who abduct children and keep them under the stairs in their house… once the story gets going(it does take a bit to get to where it’s going) it becomes quite unsettling. Perhaps it’s because you’re expecting goofy fun? In any event, The People Under The Stairs is one of the very few “scary” movies Wes Craven has directed, and after all of these years(24) it really holds up, more than I can say for Shocker, The Hills Have Eyes, Deadly Blessing, etc. etc..
Scream Factory had somewhat of an uphill battle with this one. Universal released this movie onto Blu-ray last year. And although it was totally barebones, all that extra space on the 50 GB BD left room for a very impressive, crisp looking transfer of the film. Scream Factory gives us pretty much the same, beautiful looking transfer, only this time it’s packed with extras. The picture doesn’t suffer as a result of less room for data storage. It looks just as good, only with a slightly lower bitrate, but you’re not going to notice that anyway. So, if you purchased Universal’s Blu-ray release last year, should you double dip and pick up Scream Factory’s as well? Well, the answer is an emphatic hell yes.