Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs [TPUTS] is still one of the weirdest and most original horror films I have ever seen. While it could have easily ventured into pure torture porn, Craven packs the script with lots of intelligence and just enough humor to make the gore bearable. There are more squirm-worthy moments than I can possibly list here. That's a tribute to Craven's skill as a filmmaker because it takes a lot to make me squirm!
In addition to excellent directing and writing TPUTS benefits from a strong cast including the delightfully demented slum landlord and his wife, played respectively by Everett McGill [Twin Peaks, Silver Bullet] and Wendy Robie [Twin Peaks, The Glimmer Man]. I would much rather spend a night with Freddy Krueger than with these two sadistic cannibals! Even though their actions are way over the top, both of these actors make their characters seem very real. Deep in the bottom of your gut you know there are people in our world who are equally as crazy and sadistic as these two which is what makes the film so horrifying.
The kids in the cast are also pretty good as well. Brandon Quintin Adams plays Fool who is the hero who saves the day. He goes from being an average kid from the hood to bad mamma-jaima who utters the line "I'm tired of fucking around so you either put the gun down now or kiss your ass goodbye, boy!" A.J. Longer is great as Alice, the daughter they've kept locked up in the house for as long as she can remember and Sean Whalen [Men in Black,Twister] brings a lot of heart and warmth to the story as Roach, one of the kids who lives under the stairs.
The final piece that makes TPUTS work is the incredible set and special effects. The design of the house is flawless and seems to have an endless number of creepy rooms with secret passageways and tunnels that lead to one horrific room after another. The blood and gore effects also hold up well and definitely made me wince a time or two.
I have always been a Wes Craven fan and admire his visionary spirit and demented imagination. TPUTS stands the test of time as one of his best and should not be missed.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.