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The People Under The Stairs (1991)



Average Rating: 4.4/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 1 | Rotten: 4

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.1/5
User Ratings: 43,895

My Rating

Movie Info

Wes Craven wrote and directed this surrealistic horror-comedy, which was inspired by a true story of parents keeping their children locked in a basement for years. Fool (Brandon Adams), an African-American teen, breaks into the home of the wealthy landlords who evicted his family from a ghetto tenement. A fortune in gold coins is rumored to exist inside, but Fool discovers that the mansion is a chamber of horrors presided over by a pair of incestuous, serial killer siblings (Everett McGill and


Horror, Comedy

Wes Craven

Oct 7, 2003

Universal Pictures

Watch It Now



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All Critics (20) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (11) | Rotten (8) | DVD (5)

A pretense of social responsibility and most of the necessary tension get lost in a combination of excessive gore and over-the-top perfs in The People Under the Stairs.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety | Comment (1)
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There are a few push-button frights, but a total dearth of mind-disturbing terror; the humour, too, is broad, crowd-pleasing stuff.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Though the new movie has its share of blood and gore, it is mostly creepy and, considering the bizarre circumstances, surprisingly funny.

August 30, 2004 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Craven has been directing downhill since his terror triptych of "Last House on the Left," "The Hills Have Eyes" and the original "Nightmare on Elm Street," so it's hardly surprising that he hits bottom with "The People Under the Stairs."

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If there were truth in advertising, The People Under the Stairs would be called The Not Very Scary Movie Set Inside a Grungy, Badly Lit House.

November 1, 1991 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The performances combine with Craven's witty script and energetic direction to make The People Under the Stairs a spooky, laugh-filled release most horror fans should get a kick out of.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Georgia Straight

Perhaps the most staggeringly incompetent movie in the director's uneven canon.

June 3, 2005 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

A very uneven but interesting horror thriller with a social message that's somewhat lost in a script with some effective terror and less working humour and slapstick.

October 28, 2004 Full Review Source: Slasherpool

Craven toils under the influence of Lynch and Raimi, but below the surface hyperactivity the results are the same.

June 8, 2004

A heady horror film (virtually a horror-movie fairy tale) punctuated with occasional outbursts of dark-humored slapstick and all centered on an angry socio-political theme.

August 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC) | Comment (1)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Goofy fun for fans of schlocky horror films.

March 5, 2003
Juicy Cerebellum

Very good Wes Craven thriller

December 27, 2002

While The People Under the Stairs may leave some horror fans unsatisfied and other horror detractors repulsed, it ought to satisfy those viewers who appreciate a thoughtful and visceral movie entertainment.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

"The People Under the Stairs" provides a few jolts here and there, but writer-director Wes Craven certainly doesn't let taste stand in the way of exploitation.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Audience Reviews for The People Under The Stairs

Leroy: Nice to see the rich folks' got rats too.

"In every neighborhood there's one house adults whisper about and children cross the street to avoid."

The People Under the Stairs is a classic 90's horror film from Wes Craven. Craven has made some of the best horror films and some of the lousiest, and The People Under the Stairs belongs to neither of these categories. It's not great, with weak acting and a real lack of anything scary, but it's definitely not bad. The story is a good one and Craven's direction and pace is strong. Also there's a lot of social commentary thrown into the plot as well, which always is good as long as the content works.

A young kid named Fool and is family are in trouble. His mother is really sick and they're about to be evicted from their apartment. When an older gentleman named Leroy asks Fool to be the third person on his team, which is planning to break into the landlords house where a big stash of gold coins are supposed to be and steal them, Fool is apprehensive, but ultimately his families problems force him to do so. When they get into the house, it's not what they expected. Not only are the landlords crazy, but they have a bunch of prisoners locked up in the cellar.

This is a fun little movie. It's one of those horror movies that you know is a product of the nineties, with the campiness of the villains and the ghetto setting. The movie has an interesting premise that the rest of the movie is able to live up to and that's saying something for the genre. Most of the time with horror films of this type, the premise is interesting, but the movie falls apart after twenty minutes. That isn't the case here.

If you're a fan of horror films and Wes Craven, this one is worth a look. It's no Nightmare on Elm Street or Scream, but it's a nice, solid addition to Craven's filmography. Don't go into it expecting anything special and you should enjoy yourself. I know that I did and I honestly wasn't expecting to.
September 2, 2013
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

The films of Wes Craven have proven to be all over the place in terms of quality over the years, but this one falls on the more positive side of things...and it's quite a doozy too.

After being threatened with eviction from their rundown tenement, a young teen named Fool decides, along with a couple of thugs, to rob the mansion where their landlord lives. The place is rumored to contain a fortune in gold, but once the trio break in, they find far more than they bargained for, and soon realize that maybe they should have just dealt with the eviction instead.

This film, while it has shades of movies like The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and even Home Alone, proves to be quite original. It's definitely uneven, and has a really long and drawn out conclusion that begins to get really overstuffed, but, if you're in the mood for something wild, off the wall, and twisted, this might be the film for you.

If you can tap into the film's groove, you might have a good time. It's definitely over the top and ridiculous, but the less you know about it going in, the better and more effective it is. It's not really scary per se, but it actually does have a few moments of genuine tension and suspense. There's bits of dark humor here and there, butI wouldn't call it a full on horror comedy.

Brandon Adams, also known for his work in the Mighty Ducks series, is prretty good here. He's rather compelling as a kid caught up in a horrifying and surreal situation. Ving Rhames is also pretty good as Leroy, one of the thugs that Fool goes along with. Everett McGill and Wendy Robie are deliciously demented as the main antagonists.

Yeah, the film is a little rough, but it has some fun ideas, it's pretty engrossing, and even though it's quite nuts, it's worth a look.
November 3, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

The People Under The Stairs is a drastic change of direction for director Wes Craven. Craven known for some of the most famous films in the genre, crafts a film that is eccentric, bizarre and off the wall. With The People Under The Stairs, he creates a totally different horror film. The film, I would say is good, but it doesn't deliver the stunning shocks that Craven has delivered in previous works. Despite the somewhat zany story, Wes Craven manages to pull out a few good jolts out of this unusual horror yarn. The film isn't one Craven's best, but it definitely isn't his worst. The film is marred with mildly effective humor, but at times it falls flat. The People Under The Stairs is still a decent enough horror film, and is fairly creepy for the most part. The talent involved in this film is really what makes this film a must see for Craven fans. Even if The People Under The Stairs isn't Craven's strongest offering, the cast make the film worthwhile viewing. Everett McGill and Wendy Robie, and terrific as the films villains, and they really make this film a must see. Even if it's not perfect, The People Under The Stairs is still a good horror film that Craven fans will most likely enjoy. I really enjoyed the change of direction of this Craven offering, and for the most part, it succeeds at being entertaining, even if it's flawed. But in the end, you have to admire Wes Craven's knack for trying something different. A good horror film with plenty of strange, eccentric moments.
September 26, 2011
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

A young boy from the ghetto is trapped inside the house of a pair of ruthless cannibalistic slumlords who keep a group of kidnapped children in their basement. This is Wes Craven's attempt to jump on the ghetto bandwagon with this horror comedy that plays out like The Addams Family crossed with Home Alone. There's some attempt at social commentary hidden in here somewhere, as a gang of subjugated whiter-than-white people are kept helpless and voiceless under the control of the capitalist elite who drain all the money from a black neighbourhood, but the Scooby Doo script just has a group of kids running around dark corridors in a spooky mansion looking for buried treasure. The likeable cast do their best with what they have to work with but there's no plot, no context and little in the way of thrills. Juvenile in the extreme and mediocre in its execution, it's still far better than most things Craven has done.
June 7, 2011
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

Movies Like The People Under The Stairs

    1. Leroy: Maybe the President's gonna make me Secretary of Pussy!
    – Submitted by Lucas N (22 months ago)
    1. Mommy: You kids'll be the death of me! The death of me.
    – Submitted by Lucas N (22 months ago)
    1. Leroy: (talking to Fool about a noise he heard in the vents) Something's in there. As a matter of fact, why don't you crawl in there and see what it is?
    2. Fool: Turkey-brain! Are you hitting on me like I'm here to save your ass? You're gonna stick your dumb head in there and lose it, like Spenser!
    – Submitted by Creep F (2 years ago)
    1. Mommy: (to Alice) Speak when spoken to. That's what good girls do.
    – Submitted by Creep F (2 years ago)
    1. Mommy: (saying this along with 'Daddy') Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should KILL before I wake. I pray the Lord my soul to take.
    – Submitted by Creep F (2 years ago)
    1. Fool: (when asked how he feels, at the very end of the movie) I feel like a million dollars.
    – Submitted by Creep F (2 years ago)
View all quotes (47)

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