Combine Home Alone and Don't Breathe and you get The People Under the Stairs. The film follows a young black kid named Fool who is a bad fucking way. His mother is dying of a totally treatable form of cancer—get used to this playing out again after Obamacare gets republicanized—and they are about to get evicted by the slumlords that own their building (keep in mind, slumlords were getting a lot press at the time). Fool ends up joining Ving Rhames and a white dude on an attempted burglary at the landlords' home. Turns out the property owners are an incestuous brother/sister pair that have some weird shit going on as they've been abducting children to raise as their own, only to mutilate them and throw them in the basement when they fail to live up to their unrealistic expectations (which I assume is the normal Christian way of raising a child). The burglars die almost immediately, living Fool to fend for himself in the walls of the mansion with the help of the couple's “daughter” who so far hasn't disappointed them enough to cut out her tongue or anything.
There is some nostalgia for this movie on my end. It came out when I was 9 and was the first R-rated movie I saw in the theaters. There were like 30 of us that went as a part of some kid's birthday celebration. The kid's negligent parent took us in a bus from the community center to the theater. The manager, I recall, was not very keen on letting a shitload of wild ass 6-10 year olds watch a Wes Craven movie with minimal parental supervision but trying to force us into Beauty and the Beast wasn't going to happen. At the time, I fucking loved it. Hadn't seen it since. Time for a rewatch... Now it wasn't great, but was still solid enough to recommend it as an absurd cinematic experience.
Pros: Wes Craven is so good. Way over the top to the point of hilarity. Borders on slapstick comedy. I'd almost swear it was a Raimi movie if I didn't know better. Great pacing. Kid actor is pretty good for a child.
Cons: This movie doesn't know what it wants to be: social commentary, creepy horror, or zany comedy. Acting isn't the best. Parts of the movie weren't great. Sort drags on near the end... It's also extremely racist. I give this movie a lot of passes for nostalgic purposes.
|Fool and Ving in happier times|
Meet the protagonist. Fool is his name. He's 13 years old. His sister is the ethnic chick in the fifth Nightmare on Elm Street movie, The DreamChild. They are in a shit situation. Mom is sick and dying of a curable disease and they are getting evicted. Ving Rhames is maybe the sister's boyfriend or something. It isn't super clear. He is a raging asshole. Well, he has found out where their landlords live. Wes Craven is so good. Just gets right to it and have natural dialogue.
Once we get our first glimpses of the slumlords we see it is Big Ed and Nadine from TwinPeaks. She is crazier in this movie, slightly, but Big Ed is way more insane. This movie is basically what would've happened if the two had procreated in Twin Peaks. See something's going on with the daughter. Totally abuse her and all that.
Ving, Fool, and this white guy, Spencer, go to the house to steal the money the landlords are rumored to have. Fool tries to get in dressed as a boy scout, selling boy scout cookies which isn't a think, but is rebuffed. Now Spencer goes up to it and weasels his way in the house but doesn't come out. Really funny line here. Fool keeps on floating hypotheticals. Maybe this. Maybe that. And Ving says "maybe the president's gonna make me the secretary of Pussy,” which was golden. Keeps it coming with his zany antics. Another zinger at Fool, “You're too old to get to tit and too young to get ass.” “He's fucked either way,” he says. Classic.
The couple leaves. Fool and Ving break in. They are immediately attacked by a Rottweiler. They subdue the dog and separate. Fool goes to the basement. He finds Spencer. His hair has gone white. People under the stairs sort of come at Fool. Roach jumped on his back scares the shit out of him. He takes off. The folks come back. Ving eventually gets killed and they realize, at some point, that they have another person in the house. They know right away it was the boy scout.
This is where the movie really starts toeing the line between straight up comedy and over the top horror. Some examples, when Fool is getting attacked by the people under the stairs, basically a 90s grunge band, Roach scares them off by like playing with Ving's corpse and making him look like a zombie. That is like Fool's father figure but he rolls with it. At another point the dog is barking, obviously because of Fool's antics, and Big Ed comes out and yells, “shut the fuck up!” in the most hilarious way possible. When I saw this in the theater it was the funniest thing anyone had ever seen.
Fool escapes once but comes back for the daughter. He calls the cops who are naturally easily distracted and think all is cool. Fool gets in during this shit show. He then hears the parents talking about a bunch of bull shit in their room. Think the coast is clear, he prances about the house. But surprise. The parents recorded that conversation during the day or something and played it on a tape player to fool him. Wha? This is insane and makes no fucking sense. What is awesome though is now Big Ed is wearing a gimp suit because it's hilarious.
Of course Fool keeps breaking away and crawling around through the walls for another 30 minutes. At one point they lift a scene straight out of Home Alone when Fool makes a bunch of noise in the chimney so that Gimp Daddy climbs in and looks up. Gimp gets hit in the face with a brick. Totally Home Aloned you, bra.
|Lotta this action|
Parents eventually get theirs. The mom, who runs through most of her last 10 minutes screaming and running around with a butcher knife like a lunatic, takes her first blow when the daughter busts out the ceiling out of nowhere like a maniac and smashes her face into the floor. She doesn't finish the job though. Mom is looking rough AF now. Fool, who talked the people under the stairs into helping him by basically promising them that he will help them score with chicks when they get out, are now all about helping Fool and the daughter girl. So yeah, the gets eaten by the people under the stairs but not before she again runs around screaming with the knife like a wild person. This movie was made by insane people.
The end involves this slick, sort of unnecessary, and totally unrealistic trick with the coins that is yet another Home Alone esque gag. Takes place in this storage room filmed with gold coins and bills. Money is fucking everywhere. It's enough to swim in Scrooge McDuck style. What Fool does is he puts the coins in these candles and lights them so that the coins fall as the candles melt so that Big Ed thinks he is like fingering the coins or something. The coins fall out at a rate of one every three seconds instead of the more realistic 45 minutes. This leads to Fool blowing up the storage room with Big Ed, the money, TNT, and all. This kills Big Ed, finally. Money starts raining down from the sky. They practically call it a ghetto miracle. All the money is completely in tact. We also see the people under the stairs are loose and on a mission to score. Roll credits. I'm sure things end up going well for them. All in all, pretty funny for a movie about mutilating and confining a bunch of kids in a basement.
|They are out there, ladies|
UPDATE: Forgot to check on those "Drive-In Totals" as Monstervision totally did this flick. Whenever the godly Joe Bob Briggs and I agree on shit I feel somewhat validated with this bullshit bloggy blog. Enjoy!