The People under the Stairs



      Daddy cut out the bad parts,  and put them in the basement... they get flashlights and

                    food of some kind and I suppose they're happy in their own way


This is the story of a young boy named Poindexter who lives in the ghetto of a large city. At the start of the movie, he learns that he and his family have been evicted from their apartment; their cruel landlords, the Robesons, turned the family out for being three days late on the rent. His older sister, Ruby, is dating a street thug named Leroy, who offers to help Poindexter (affectionately known as Fool) take care of his family by planning a joint burglary of the Robesons' residence, rumoured to contain a wealth of gold coins. Fool agrees to join Leroy and his accomplice Spencer. He also starts hearing disturbing rumours about his former landlords. Grandfather Booker tells Fool that the Robesons' house used to be a funeral home, and adds that the Robeson family have been incestously procreating for many years, becoming increasingly insane with each generation.

Eventually, the three boys decide that the best time for their burglary has arrived. They send Fool in posing as a boy scout selling cookies, to try to scout the house out. After unsuccessfully asking to enter the house to use the bathroom he returns to the others. Then Spencer goes in, posing as a municipal worker, intending to assess the house- but he never comes back out. After waiting for Spencer for some time, Fool and Leroy decide to go in after him and break into the house together. Once inside, they are astonished at the interior: it is a mixture of inexplicably extreme security, old-fashioned décor, and sinister morbidity. The pair are pursued by a vicious dog and Fool ends up in the house's basement. Fool discovers the body of Spencer, along with "People" hidden Under The Stairs like animals. While exploring, the Robesons return home, catching the intruders in the act. They shoot and kill Leroy and then begin dancing around his body while Fool hides and watches in terror.

While searching for an exit, Fool meets a young girl named Alice, the embodiment of innocence and purity. Alice tells Fool that her "parents" (the Robesons) searched for a long time for perfect children. She tells him that the only way to survive in the Robeson's world is to "hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil." The "creatures" Fool saw in the basement are the boys, who the Robesons call the "people under the stairs," who have either had their eyes cut out, their ears cut off, or their tongues torn out as punishment for breaking one of these rules and are subsequently locked away forever in the celler, fed scraps of human flesh thrown at them by "Dad." One of these boys, a mute named Roach previously managed to find a way out from under the stairs and the basement and has been hiding in the wall cavities ever since, becoming Alice's only friend. The Robesons refer to him as "the thing in the walls," and occasionally shoot at him with a shotgun.

Alice and Roach help Fool escape through the rafters and walls of the building. Unfortunately, Alice is left behind to be punished for her role in helping Fool escape, and Roach is killed, but not before giving Fool several gold coins and showing him the way out of the basement. Upon escaping, Fool promptly dials the Police rom a public telephone and reports that child abuse is occurring at the home he has just escaped from. The police soon arrive at the Robesons' and are welcomed by an expert charade put on by the man and woman. Alice is kept hidden and the couple put forth the illusion of old-fashioned, strict, but very normal suburban living, even offering the officers coffee and cookies. The police, satisfied that no abuse is occurring, promptly leave.

Fool, having escaped, sneaks back into the house just before the police leave to save Alice from her miserable existence. Anticipating Fool's return, the couple ambush him, he pretends to have escaped again. but Fool manages to get to the attic and frees Alice. A group of zombie-like "People Under the Stairs" manage to break loose from under the stairs and attack "Mom," who meets her end by Alice's hands as she stabs her. Fool is promptly met by the shotgun-toting "Dad," who is clad in a full leather suit. Fool's plan, aided by the man's supply of explosives in the basement, eventually succeeds and he and Alice escape with a dozen children who have been kept under the stairs.

And as for the collective money belonging to the misanthropic people, it is blown out of the house through the chimneys and soon is taken by a massive horde of people who had all been cheated of their money as the People Under the Stairs flee into the night.










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Directed by Wes Craven
Produced by Shep Gordon
Wes Craven
Marianne Maddalena
Stuart M. Besser
Written by Wes Craven
Starring Brandon Adams
Everett McGill
Wendy Robie
A. J. Langer
Ving Rhames
Sean Whalen
Music by Don Peake
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) November 1, 1991
Running time 102 minutes
Language English
Budget $24,204,154