“I think there is something about the American dream, the sort of Disneyesque dream, if you will, of the beautifully trimmed front lawn, the white picket fence, mom and dad and their happy children, God-fearing and doing good whenever they can, and the flip side of it, the kind of anger and the sense of outrage that comes from discovering that that’s not the truth of the matter, that gives American horror films, in some ways, kind of an additional rage.” – Wes Craven Craven’s comment in the 2000 documentary, The American Nightmare, seems the perfect frame for his The People Under the Stairs (1991). Because until fairly recently in film, the question of economics really wasn’t one that entered into the horror genre much. Most horror films were either upper class affairs (in dark spooky mansions in the middle of nowhere) or solidly middle class. And while we might be revolted by the discovery, through horror, of the perversion hiding behind those class-facades, the system which produces the classes themselves—and the great lie of the accessibility of the American dream—are rarely considered. But had The People Under the Stairs been released this year, it would have fit quite well into the critique of income inequality we’ve been seeing nationwide. Young Fool’s black family are the last legal residents of an inner-city tenement building owned by the evil white landlords who have been looking for an excuse to get rid of them so they can tear down the apartments and build something better (and whiter) to profit off of. Fool’s cancer-ridden mother being 3 days late on the rent provides this opportunity; the landlords are evicting them in 24 hours. Fool’s sister has a boyfriend (or pimp–hard to tell), Leroy, who has the perfect solution: he knows that there is a collection of gold coins hidden in the home of the landlords—who live far away in surburbia—that could save the family. He convinces Fool (Brandon Quintin Adams) to help steal them. The two are soon trapped in a seemingly inescapable house in which Mommy and Daddy (played with sick relish by Everett McGill and Wendy Robie, Twin Peaks’ also-off couple Nadine and Big Ed Hurley) have been tormenting stolen children in order to raise the perfect son and daughter. As each male child fails in some way to live up to the twisted couple’s perverted idea of that perfection, he is maimed and consigned to a cannibalistic existence in the cellar, while the daughter lives on, above stairs, in terror and subjected to torture for the slightest infraction. One of the “brothers,” however, has escaped the basement, and Roach now roams between the walls of the house, a byzantine world of chutes-and-ladders, befriending sister Alice (A.J. Langer) and harrying Mommy and Daddy. Ving Rhames’ Leroy is soon killed, and it’s left to the three children to try to make it out of the house alive. As they attempt to escape the clutches of the literally sadistic couple (Daddy wears bondage gear to hunt them), Craven shows us the two sides of the American experience he talked about in The American Nightmare. Despite the fact that everyone in the middle-class neighborhood and the barely working-class Hood know that there’s something very evil going on in the house, the police are blithely unaware when they come to investigate a 911 call, wandering the decaying home with a blind eye to all the clues simply because Daddy does his best pipe-smoking Father Knows Best imitation while Mommy serves them all tea and cookies. Class and race easily buy them protection from suspicion. But the true nature of their worst (to contemporary eyes) sins only becomes apparent at the very end of the film, when Fool discovers an untouched horde of wealth in the home—Mommy and Daddy are rich beyond anyone’s dreams and yet they still seek to drive a sick mother and her children out of their home just to make money that they will never use. At the heart of Craven’s sometimes silly, often quite humorous, film is a critique of trickle-down Reaganomics: the rich are not rich because they work harder or make wiser decisions or because they excel in any other way ethically. Nor do they contribute positively to the wider economy. Precisely the opposite is true: they live in their own sealed-off, untouchable world in which others exist only to be used and discarded for their own predatory pleasure. It’s a message that resonates even more today than it did in 1991. See larger image The People Under The Stairs [Collector’s Edition] [Blu-ray] 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. Special Features Include: -Audio Commentary with writer/director Wes Craven -Audio Commentary with actors Brandon Adams, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen, and Yan Burg -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 -Settling 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) New From: $15.99 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.