As a kid I first became aware of The People Under the Stairs from the TV spots that seemed to infect my brain with wonder and terror. I wasn’t old enough to see it in theaters, so I had to wait until it reached home video to check it out. I was probably twelve by the time I got around to checking it out, but I remember distinctly identifying with the child protagonist that played hero through the movie despite a misleading presence of adult characters playing the “adults know best” routine. It’s made it an important movie for me for that reason alone. Scream Factory has given this feature some new artwork, a pile of extras and a great looking audio/video display that should entice a new audience to check it out.
This wasn’t my first Wes Craven movie. I had seen Nightmare on Elm Street, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Swamp Thing and Shocker before The People Under the Stairs. I wouldn’t get into Craven’s darker, 70’s goodies until I was in my teens with Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. Of any of Craven’s earlier pictures it seems to have ties with Nightmare on Elm Street where the unsuspecting hero has to do battle with something so much larger than himself, a force beyond nature even if it isn’t wholly supernatural. The People Under the Stairs has perfect villains and imperfect heroes who feel real but almost superhuman.
The People Under the Stairs, as with most Craven pictures, finds something of reality and question it and bring new light to it. In this instance we are asked to take a look at what it’s like in an impoverished part of town. The home life of our hero, Freak, is a bombed out ghetto, his mother is sick and cannot afford medical treatment and crime is rampant. While Freak is a good kid by nature, his mother’s health and potential eviction leads him to make some tough decisions by engaging in criminal activity. This is a road map of what one might expect from the poverty crisis of the 70’s and 80’s that endures to this day. Craven shines a spotlight on it and uses it as a catalyst for a discussion of urban destruction, providing moral tale and sufficient answer to the crisis in his development of this picture. While you may not be able to invade your evil landlord’s house to find redemption from the slum he keeps you in, the community can stand up to the oppression of poverty and win.
The People Under the Stairs was released by Universal last year on Blu-ray and looked absolutely wonderful. The catch? The release was completely devoid of extra material. This begs the question as to whether you should pick up this release by Scream Factory if you’ve already purchased the previous incarnation. The quality remains the same (top notch), but you get a discussion with the KNB effects crew that makes this release worth it alone. This may be one of my favorite extras on any release this year (the best so far is on weapons discussion on the 1990 Bronx Warriors release from Blue Underground).
Full list of extras include:
Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Wes Craven
Audio Commentary With Actors Brandon Adams, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen And Yan Birch
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
Setting The Score - An Interview With Composer Don Peake
Vintage "Making Of" Featurette
Still Galleries (Original Storyboards And Official Stills)
Yes, the classic TV Spots are included on this release as are multiple informative commentaries, interviews and even a vintage “Making of” featurette. This is a far cry from the barebones release we some from Universal. If this is what we might expect from Scream Factory for Craven classics The Serpent and The Rainbow and Shocker, I’m very excited.
You can order your copy now from Scream Factory. For limited time, you’re order will come with a poster of the new cover.
From Scream Factory:
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.