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On May 30th, Scream Factory will release a 4K/Blu-ray combo of The People Under the Stairs. I’ve seen the horror-comedy a number of times. Even though it was first released in 1991, the socio-political element of the rich eating those beneath them (literally, in the film) is just as applicable to today’s troubles. Even more so, unfortunately.

But Wes Craven (Scream, The Hills Have Eyes, The Serpent and the Rainbow, A Nightmare on Elm Street) always had his finger on the pulse of American society and its underpinnings, more than most horror directors. He was certainly responsible for reinventing the genre several times over, even when viewers weren’t ready to accept the horrors that reflected back at them. But what is art but an alchemic mirror?

In the film, young teen “Fool” (Brandon Adams) scopes out places to rob with his sister’s boyfriend Leroy (a pre-fame, pre Pulp Fiction Ving Rhames). One of these such places is an enormous, three story home owned by a very uptight white couple — “Man” and “Woman” — played by Everett McGill and Wendy Robie. These two awesome actors were already in Los Angeles finishing up the second season of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks when they were cast, mere days before starting work on Craven’s film.

Anyway, Fool and Leroy case this house — as well as a third man. This is a white guy who’s dispatched almost immediately in a reversal not often seen back then. Again, Craven zigs when you might expect him to zag, and we are all the richer for it. Leroy comes to a gruesome end in all the gory detail that this 4K disc actually shows; for this seasoned horror watcher, it’s actually a bit much. But major kudos to the then-young trio of the legendary KNB EFX Group (Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, and Howard Berger) who supervised the quite-effective, practical special effects.

What Fool and Leroy didn’t count on when attempting to rob the house, is… a ton. Most worrisome is Man and Woman’s psychosis and their killer dog, the traumatized girl Alice (A.J. Langer), the Peter Pan-esque “Roach” (Sean Whalen) who lives in the walls of the house, and the titular people under the stairs. 

These are teen boys and young men who’ve been trapped in the basement for years, fed on scraps of human flesh and whatever. They’ve become jaundiced and semi-feral, with huge black eyes because their pupils have dilated too much because of the low light of the basement. They more resemble Lost Boys zombies than anything that might happen in reality, but that’s fine. The film does have a cartoonish vibe sometimes running within its horror comedy veins. There aren’t any abrupt tonal shifts; Craven rides the lightning of both genres to create something gross at times, but fun.

McGill and Robie are spectacular in their over-the-top performances; they somehow emit a campy truth. That is to say, they are fantastic baddies. And the younger actors really pull their weight as well. Craven was always great at casting.

In the end, the villains get their well-deserved comeuppance, a positive ending that’s kind of hard to find within the genre. The neighborhood is definitely better for it in more ways than one.

Scream Factory (Shout Factory’s horror imprint) has a dual disc package on offer for this release — a 4K and Blu-ray disc combo. It comes in a cardboard slipcase. If you order from their website in a timely manner, you’ll also get a complimentary 18” x 24” poster featuring the same theatrical artwork that’s on the slipcase and plastic case.

The new 4K scan is lovely, with only some minor imperfections. Colors are bright and saturated, such as the blood on McGill’s yellow apron, or Robie’s red hair topping her green silk dress. Details are everywhere, revealing terrific texture. I have to say that the black leather and silver-studded gimp outfit McGill wears during a “hunting” spree looks great. This is not a sentence I’d ever thought I’d write, let me tell you. Thanks, Scream Factory! Sound is also quite good, really showcasing Don Peake’s rad score and all those ambient sound effects — just the way it should be in a horror film.

Let’s check out the extras; there are a healthy amount. Note that they are mostly ported over from a previous Arrow Video release. However, they are quite enjoyable, all the same.


  • NEW 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative

  • In Dolby Vision (HDR-10 Compatible)

  • Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

  • Audio Commentary With Director Wes Craven

  • Audio Commentary With Actors Brandon Adams, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen And Yan Birch

  • Audio Commentary With Actor Brandon Adams, Moderated By Calum Waddell

  • Fear, Freud & Class Warfare – An Interview With Wes Craven

  • Behind Closed Doors – An Interview With Actress A.J. Langer

  • Silent But Deadly – An Interview With Actor Sean Whalen

  • Underneath The Floorboards – Filmmaker Jeffrey Reddick Recalls The Lasting Impact Of The Film

  • Theatrical Trailer


  • NEW 4K Scan Of The Original Camera Negative

  • Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

  • Audio Commentary With Director Wes Craven

  • Audio Commentary With Actors Brandon Adams, A.J. Langer, Sean Whalen And Yan Birch

  • Audio Commentary With Actor Brandon Adams, Moderated By Calum Waddell

  • House Mother – An Interview With Actress Wendy Robie

  • What Lies Beneath: The Effects Of The People Under The Stairs

  • House of Horrors – An Interview With Cinematographer Sandi Sissel

  • Settling The Score – An Interview With Composer Don Peake

  • Behind-The-Scenes Footage

  • Theatrical Trailer

  • TV Spots

  • Vintage Making-Of Featurette

  • Original Storyboards

  • Still Gallery

Craven’s interview was wonderful; I’m sad he’s gone. He was quite smart, articulate, and seemed kind. I also loved Robie’s interview (she seems fun). Interviews with cinematographer Sandi Sissel and composer Don Peake were also delightful. As you can see, there are a lot of extras to digest.

Overall, Scream Factory’s release of Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs is a winner. If you love horror comedies or need to fill in a blank spot in your Craven filmography, pick up this release at Scream Factory here.

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4K reviewBlu-ray reviewScream FactoryShout FactoryThe People Under the StairsWes CravenBrandon Quintin AdamsEverett McGillWendy RobieComedyHorrorMystery

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