The People Under The Stairs, one of the more recent outings for Wes Craven, sees him directing one of, if not the, most bizarre films of his to date. This film is indeed the personification of surreal. I'm not too sure what Craven was smoking when he was sat in the directors chair but it made for some interesting viewing.
The problem with The People Under The Stairs is that the audience, and to an extent the film, doesn't know whether it is supposed to be entirely serious or slightly tongue-in-cheek. The film does have a few genuinely scary parts, mainly involving the people under the stairs. The aspects of this film that border on the humorous side are the people that own the house, only referred to as Man and Woman and their Dog.
Man and Woman are, to put it nicely, a few aspirins short of a medicine cabinet. If you thought that the Texas Chain Saw family was weird you ain't seen nothing yet. These two however are weird on a different scale. Man, played brilliantly by Everett McGill, is a person who is just a little too protective of things. He also likes to deal with his problems, mainly Fool, with a rather ominous shotgun. Woman, played by Wendy Robie, is a cruel lady. From threatening her child, Alice, to setting the dog on any intruder that dares enter. As the saying goes 'hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn'.
The People Under The Stairs is basically a big adventure. A big adventure that is strictly confined to the restraints of the house. Since ninety percent of this film is set inside the house it still manages to keep its length. Fool - Brandon Adams - is roped into getting in the house to find some gold coins. Le Roy, his partner in crime is then subjected to the family dog. First off I'd like to say that Fool is one of a very few kid characters that doesn't annoy me. And second, never has a dog had such an exceptional role in a film. In The People Under The Stairs the dog is the main source for much of the comedy. For such a ferocious dog he can be really quite comical. The best part is when Woman feeds him a human hand of which he starts to eat. Then he hears a sound, and as dogs do, bolts his head up. Sure enough, sticking out of his mouth is a finger. Then when the dog is chasing Alice through the house a trapdoor drops and the canine is subjected to a two-storey slide to the kitchen where he promptly gets up as if nothing has happened.
When Fool finally manages to get out of the house, even after Alice has told him 'no-one gets out' the film appears to be over. The boy has survived the evil adults and will now live happily ever after. Wrong. In true Wes Craven style Fool is sent back for more. This starts the anti-climax of the film. The adventure starts again but most of it doesn't seem necessary. There are some more laughs, especially at Man's hunting suit, but that is all there is. The only part that was needed was the setting free of 'the people...' This does bring a spectacular explosion (which includes all the money they had collected being brought down in a shower) for a finale. One worrying thing is though, with all 'the people...' wandering amongst the rest of the street, no one seems to notice. Money does that to you I suppose.
This film is defiantly one of Cravens more bizarre tales and for that reason it didn't have good PR. This film is Addams Family meets Evil Dead with a kid for a hero. Some would think that this is not a very good film but it is full off adventure and is an acceptable watch. If you are a fan of Craven's then check it out, if not, check it out anyway; you might be surprised.