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“THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS” (Blu-ray Review)

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There’s no denying that Wes Craven is indeed one of the top directors in the genre, and there are few who are outright more terrifying and gripping that Craven at the top of his game. Yet Craven is known for his peaks as well as his valleys, and from the jump from one point to another, there is a ton of weird, wild stuff on the way. THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS is among Craven’s most bizarre (and heavy-handed) films, and though the film isn’t necessarily a genre classic in any regards, the outrageous places the flick eventually goes has rightfully earned THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS a loyal cult audience.

For those who haven’t seen THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, the plot for the film is probably actually the least crazy aspect of it. The flick follows a trio of would-be robbers who plan to steal riches from their domineering and secretive landlords, only to find that they’ve entered a house of horrors. Soon, the youngest of the three finds himself in a fight to survive, aided only by the abused daughter of the landlords and a mute boy living within their walls.

THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS is an undoubtedly bonkers film, even by Wes Craven standards, jumping in head first to themes like racism, sadomasochism and religious fanaticism with reckless abandon. Add in some impressive practical effects, excellent production design and over-the-top performances across the board (especially from TWIN PEAKS power couple Everett McGill and Wendy Robie) and THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS is a headtrip of the highest order, stuck somewhere between genuinely good and egregiously miscalculated yet always entertaining. And after becoming a bona fide late night cable favorite, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS still gains new fans by the day, hence why the film is receiving the “collector’s edition” treatment courtesy of Scream Factory.

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While the film sports the same transfer as the barebones studio Blu-ray release from 2014, the good news is that the video and audio quality is rather fantastic and should serve fans well. However, the big news is the onslaught of new extras on the disc, many of which are utterly fantastic and a huge labor of love on the part of the Scream Factory team. Of course, PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS fans will instantly gravitate to a pair of brand new commentaries on the disc, including an informative track from Wes Craven (who seems more than happy to muse on the flick all these years later) as well as the more fun and conversational track featuring actors Brandon Adams, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen and Yan Birch.

But the excellent new extras don’t stop there, as Scream Factory has assembled great new interviews and vintage extras to make any Craven completist salivate. While the new interviews with FX legends Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman really are fun and exquisite eye-openers in terms of how the effects were acheived, the new interview with Wendy Robie shows just how warm and appreciative the actress is for her genre days and her chance to work with Wes and Everett on the project. Combined with a rather fascinating new interview with cinematographer Sandi Sissel, a surprisingly great new chat with composer Don Peaks (which makes you appreciate the understated score of the flick much more) and behind-the-scenes/making-of featurettes from yesteryear, Scream Factory pulls no punches with this release.

As a whole, even those who bought the previous PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS Blu shouldn’t hesitate to add the Scream Factory version to their roster, as not only is it a top-tier collector’s edition but essentially the definitive high def disc for film. The new extras are definitely worth the double dip, while those who waited for the Scream Factory release will get to enjoy both the great A/V transfer and the bonus features in tandem with one another. And even those who might have been turned off by the batshit insanity of PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS won’t find a better place to revisit the flick in all of its entertaining glory than with this Blu-ray.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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