''The People Under the Stairs'' is a 1991 [[HorrorFilms horror movie]] directed by Creator/WesCraven. It's the story of a young boy, [[OnlyKnownByTheirNickname called Fool]], whose family is about to be evicted from their apartment by the evil landlords, who want to develop their building once they're gone. Fool's mother is sick and needs an operation, but Fool's sister can't come up with enough money. Fool wants to be a doctor, but his family doesn't have enough money to ever send him to medical school. Fortunately, his sister's boyfriend Leroy and his accomplice Spencer have a plan to rob the landlord's house; and they need Fool's help to do it.
Breaking into the house proves to be the easy part; it's getting back out that's the problem. The house is built like a fortress, and designed to keep something in. Electrified doors, a vicious guard dog, strange creatures in the basement, and a bizarrely extensive security system prevent them from leaving before the owners return. "Mommy" and "Daddy" are back, and they're [[AxCrazy armed and crazy]]. They quickly dispatch Leroy and feed him to their "sons", a pack of mutilated boys that they keep captive in the basement, and set out to hunt Fool through the house. With the help of their daughter Alice and a boy called Roach, Fool attempts to escape the house and reveal the truth to the world.
A wonderfully bizarre horror movie, ''The People Under the Stairs'' has some of the structure of a fairy tale with Fool needing to save Alice from her insane captors. Throw in some surprisingly frightening villains and some social commentary and it's a memorable, if unusual, movie.
!!This film provides examples of:
* AbusiveParents: Played to ridiculous levels by the villains.
* ActorAllusion: Mommy and Daddy are played by Wendy Robie and Everett [=McGill=], who played married couple Ed and Nadine Hurley on ''TwinPeaks''.
* AliceAllusion: In this, the Alice is a little girl who has never seen the outside world. She acts as the movie's DamselInDistress, but gets some awesome moments later.
* AngryGuardDog: Prince. Played seriously and frighteningly.
* AuthorAppeal: Creator/WesCraven's [[Franchise/ANightmareOnElmStreet continued love for booby traps]] and [[Film/TheHillsHaveEyes survivalist tactics.]]
* BlackDudeDiesFirst: Inverted. The main character is black and the first person to die is the white accomplice.
* BrokenRecord: Mommy and Daddy both repeat "Burn in Hell" anytime they talk about someone they don't like.
* BrotherSisterIncest: Grampa Booker warns Fool not to get involved with "that brother-sister act" after his first escape.
* TheCavalry: Grampa and Fool's sister repeatedly save Fool by getting the villains to put their normal charade back on to answer the doorbell. [[spoiler: When Mommy decides to shoot the pests on her porch, the whole neighborhood shows up behind them.]]
* CreepyBasement: Especially since it really is full of flesh eating monsters and has trap stairs.
** Subverted in that [[spoiler: the monsters actually help Fool. There's also a big treasure vault down there]].
* DarkIsNotEvil: The titular people under the stairs. They're just victims of Mommy and Daddy.
* EternallyPearlyWhiteTeeth: Roach apparently has time for dental hygiene while he's hiding from Mommy and Daddy.
* TheFool: Fool's nicknamesake. Played fairly straight, Fool gets by because he's clever, but he's damn lucky every time it counts.
* GoodPeopleHaveGoodSex: For most of the movie we only see Daddy using the gimp suit as a sort of bizarre battle armor, [[spoiler: but after Fool escapes the first time, Mommy calls Daddy a "bad boy" and tells him "go straight to your room and get into your suit."]]
* GoodSmokingEvilSmoking: [[spoiler: Averted and used by the villains; Daddy smokes a pipe while the police are visiting so he'll appear normal to them.
* HeroTrackingFailure: Daddy unloads a hell of a lot of lead into the walls without hitting Fool. Of course, Fool is ''in'' the walls and that limits the angles he can shoot at.
* HeyItsThatGuy: [[Film/PulpFiction Marsellus Wallace]] is Leroy and [[Series/MySoCalledLife Rayanne Graff]] is Alice.
* ImAHumanitarian: The people under the stairs aren't particularly interested in eating people, it's just that Daddy starves them.
** There are hints that Daddy is this by choice. We only see that he's eating meat at the beginning of the movie, but he keeps spitting out buckshot. They never leave the house. He uses that gun on intruders. Do the math. [[spoiler: He's shown feeding on Leroy's body before tossing him to the 'kids'.]]
* IdiotBall: Even with an entire ''crowd'' there, nobody [[spoiler: thinks of watching or detaining "Mommy" after Alice knocks her out]] near the end.
* KarmicDeath: Mommy being attacked by the boys after they escape the basement.
** The TooDumbToLive Leroy [[spoiler: is killed after he set Fool to the literal dogs.]]
* KidHero: Fool. This is taken to HomeAlone levels at a few points.
* KillItWithFire: [[spoiler: Fool blows up the house at the end. No one but the villains are hurt.]]
* KnightTemplar: The villains subscribe to some interpretation of religion that compels them to mutilate and imprison children that aren't pure, as well as trying to torture purity into their "daughter".
* LampshadeHanging: [[spoiler: While threatening Daddy with the dynamite in the treasure vault, Fool mentions that the vault wasn't the best place to store it.]]
* LargeHam: Every single line that Daddy utters. Mommy starts to get into the act towards the end too.
* MacGyvering: Fool's trick with the candles and coins.
* MadeOfIron: Daddy takes more blunt trauma to the head and a few shots to the nards in this movie, but he never seems to slow down.
* MadWomanInTheAttic: The titular people under the stairs. Though their deformities and mental problems are the result of abuse from the villains.
* MalevolentArchitecture: When the security system is active, the house has spike traps, trick stairs, and electrified doorknobs.
* TheNineties: News footage of the bombing of Baghdad in the Persian Gulf War plays on a TV outside one of the captives' cells.
* NoNameGiven: "Daddy" and "Mommy" are never given full names. Even in the credits, they're only listed as "Man" and "Woman".
* OnlyKnownByTheirNickname: Fool seems reluctant to tell people that his real name is Poindexter.
* PetTheDog: Mommy only seems to be genuinely affectionate to her husband and the watchdog Prince. And even that is played extremely creepily.
* PrecisionFStrike: Right before [[spoiler: blowing up the house at the end]]:
-->'''Fool''': I'm tired of fucking around! So either put the gun down now, or kiss your ass goodbye, boy!
* PsychopathicManchild: Daddy has shades of this, dancing around yelling "I got him!" when he thinks he's killed Fool.
* RefugeInAudacity: The Police are fairly quick to respond to calls of trouble at the home of Mommy and Daddy, but the crimes of the two maniacs are so outrageous that it makes it almost impossible to believe that these two seemingly normal people could have done anything like imprisoning/mutilating children.
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: The boys trapped in the basement rip through the walls to attack Mommy once they're released.
* SharePhrase: "Burn in hell" gets used a ''lot'' throughout.
* ShoutOut: Mommy saying "Kill him, Daddy, kill him!" is reminiscent of [[spoiler: Mrs. Voorhees chanting "Kill her, mommy, kill her!" in ''Film/FridayThe13th1980''.]]
* SlidingScaleOfComedyAndHorror: Mostly horror, but there is some tongue-in-cheek and borderline slapstick comedy as well.
* TheSpeechless: Roach. Mommy cut his tongue out for talking back.
* StepfordSmiler: Mommy, any time the police show up.
* TakeThat: Mommy & Daddy are pretty much UpToEleven Expies of the Reagans, as indicated by how they address each other.
* TarotMotifs: Fool's sister gives him the nickname Fool because she says TheFool tarot card represents him.
* TooDumbToLive: Leroy. [[spoiler: Sure, go into a house with so much security a prison would blush at. [[TemptingFate Nothing can go wrong]] with that...]]
* TookALevelInBadass: Fool goes from a timid coward not wanting to enter the house, to a clever genius who [[spoiler:kills their rabid dog by luring him to a wall to get stabbed by Dad]]. He goes back to the house without fear, sets the rest of the trapped boys free and [[spoiler:blows the house up with dynamite, killing Daddy]].
** Not to mention that he actually punches said big dog right in the nose AND punches Daddy in the nuts when he rescues Alice.
** Alice begins as a shy innocent damsel afraid of Mommy and Daddy to an impressive hero in her own right, who quickly turns the tables on them and gets angry when they threaten to kill Fool, attacks Mom from above when she attempts to kill Fool's Sister, and then stabs and weakens her, ultimately making Mom afraid of her instead, and giving the rest of the boys a chance to maul her to death.
* YourMom: Fool distracting the rottweiler: ''Your mama sleeps with cats!''
* ZillionDollarBill: The coins Fool gets at the end pay for everything his family needs.