One Sick Mother

Never subtle, director Wes Craven’s People Under the Stairs takes a suburban fairy tale and turns it into a voraciously aggressive satire on egregious wealth disparity post-Ronald Reagan. People Under the Stairs is outrageously literal, to the point of morbid comedy – the rich are literally eaten (partially, anyway) during the finale.

The goal is to leer at the harshest capitalist ideal, with the well-to-do disgusted by those who make them wealthy, but more than willing to take their money. The impossibly cruel, ludicrously conservative woman (Wendy Robie) looks toward the unseen distance and spouts lines like, “It’s as if we’re the prisoners,” while choosing to make their own home a literal prison. Rampant hypocrisy flows into People Under the Stairs, so utterly blatant as to ensure no one misses the point.

People Under the Stairs laments how children needlessly suffer under a crushing system

Craven himself wrote the script. When speaking of the demented landlords, a father tells his son, “Every generation is crazier than the last,” a line speaking past the narrative and directly targeting ever more deranged conservative policies. On-point to a bizarre degree, People Under the Stairs has a wealthy man blowing holes in his own house while wearing a gimp suit, trying to shoot a nine-year-old intruder in the name of self-defense. The insanity baked into the script refuses to show anything less than anarchy brought on by greed, paranoia, and heartlessness.

People Under the Stairs mimics Home Alone, but more graphic in nature, trashing the childish angle for something desperately defensive. The young Fool (Brandon Quintin Adams) stages comical (but dangerous) attacks involving bricks and electricity, as if raised in a world where cartoons are real, and their rules apply. Because of their deranged antics, there’s a twisted, sick satisfaction in watching the wealthy homeowners beaten down by mere children, or the zombie-like people held in the basement.

Partly, that’s the hook – People Under the Stairs laments how children needlessly suffer under a crushing system that denies people health care or reasonable housing. Fool is the star, but never a victor, even if he survives. His success is a temporary one. Another landlord awaits to keep the ghetto as-is for later gentrification, but the momentary release from poverty is enough. People Under the Stairs doesn’t want to admit it, but money doesn’t solve systemic problems, rather it pauses them. The ending isn’t happy, but there’s little doubt it was ever meant to be.


Freshly mastered and gorgeous as a result, Scream Factory’s efforts pay off with a dazzling early ’90s film stock appearing transparent on disc. People Under the Stairs uses every bit of available resolution. Sharpness doesn’t allow anything to go unseen in any frame. The amount of visible texture is outright astonishing, even years into UHD’s life where this is commonplace. Other than tiny specks of damage, People Under the Stairs looks pristine.

Easily resolved grain retains its natural qualities; compression will not interfere or lessen the filmic nature. This is a wholly transparent presentation.

Dolby Vision stands out, the heat in the city a constant. Marvelous depth pops from the precise black levels. Warmth lifts the color saturation, turning the palette into a pleasing (and satisfying) vividness without losing the horror vibes.


High ambiance outside the home begins a widely stretched DTS-HD 5.1 track, with birds and insects heard in each channel. Voices stretch the stereos where possible. The design sounds natural when using discrete channels. Separation keeps the material constantly active in every speaker.

Released in 1991, People Under the Stairs never reveals its age via the audio, perfectly resolved dialog and the score included. Only the lacking bass indicates the early ’90s origin.


On the UHD, Scream includes three commentaries (but only two show on the box art). One lets Wes Craven speak solo, another bringing actors Brandon Adams, Yan Birch, A.J. Langer, and Sean Whalen together, with the third featuring Adams again, but moderated by Calum Waddell. On the Blu-ray, a bevy of interviews include actor Wendy Robie, director of photography Sandi Sissel, composer David Peake, and a compilation interview on the special effects with Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero, and Robert Kurtzman. Behind-the-scenes footage pairs well to a vintage EPK, stills, trailers, and storyboards.

Full disclosure: This UHD was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

The People Under the Stairs
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


Bizarre, angry, and morbidly comical, People Under the Stairs isn’t a subtle commentary.

User Review
5 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 38 full resolution, uncompressed 4K screen shots ripped directly from the UHD:

One thought on "The People Under the Stairs 4K UHD Review"

  1. The Phantom Stranger says:

    After Scream, probably my favorite Wes Craven flick.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *