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The People Under The Stairs – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

People-Under-The-StairsShout! Factory has announced the August 11 Blu-ray release of horror master Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairs (Collector’s Edition). The Scream Factory treatment of this much-loved film includes several new bonus features.  Starring Everett McGill (Twin Peaks, Dune), Wendy Robie (Twin Peaks), Brandon Adams (The Mighty Ducks), Ving Rhames (Piranha 3D, Mission Impossible), A.J. Langer (Escape From L.A.) and Sean Whalen (Rob Zombie’sHalloween II, Hatchet III), this “ambitious…very strange horror movie” (Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide) will grab you when you least expect it… and never let go.  This isn’t the film’s first rodeo on Blu-ray, but its definitely the worthwhile double dip, upgrade, enhanced version people who own the previous edition will want to shell out for.

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Film 

This terrifying journey from the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream takes you inside a demented house. Trapped inside the fortified home owned by a mysterious couple, a young boy is suddenly thrust into a nightmare, quickly learning the true nature of the house’s homicidal inhabitants and the secret creatures hidden deep within the house.

Well, this movie is absolutely crazy.  Its not really a lick scary, but it sure is fun as hell.  It features some wildly over the top performances, great practical effects work and just an overall bizarre experience.  This is pretty much a fun-house movie with a lot of horror elements consuming it as a theme.  The film sets out one way and winds up taking a different direction than you’d expect it to go.  But, its the right decision as the weird stuff in this movie is what helps it to work and succeed even if it wasn’t intended to.

Wes Craven must’ve been a Twin Peaks fan as he casts Big Ed and Nadine here in the main villain roles.  Wendy Robie owns this movie with every frame she gets to sink her teeth into.  She makes you uneasy and she makes you get a good giggle.  And Everett McGill in the wild S&M-like suit running around getting joy out of trying to hunt and kill is a treat.  In the first act we get Ving Rhames in a movie you wouldn’t expect him to be in.

I don’t know whether this movie turned out the way Craven intended or not, but its no shame attitude and humor make it really work for me.  Its sort of something in the vein of Motel Hell.  Something makes me think Wes may not have been intending to go fully overboard, but it does and retrospectively it helps the film to age better.  If you’ve never popped this one in before, you need to check it out to see what a wild ride it is.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  I can’t compare picture quality to the previous edition of the film, since I don’t own and haven’t seen that copy.  But, I’d imagine its relatively a similar transfer since that once came out less than a year ago.  The image looks very nice and untampered with.  Detail is pretty strong and the image is about as sharp as the source was every going to allow it to be.  Definitely the best this has ever (and may ever) looked.

Depth:  Average depth.  Movements are very cinematic and look free in their space.  Background images are as clear as the focus allows.

Black Levels: Blacks are accurate and produce some good shadowing.  No real crushing witnessed and hidden details were only due to the lighting.

Color Reproduction: Colors are held in check but still look pretty bold.  Red is one that pops the most, but for the most part they are kept to a natural look.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones take on a natural appearance and stay consistent throughout.  Detail on facial features is more distinct the closer the shot is, but is still decent pulled back.

Noise/Artifacts: Just some light grain.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This is a nice above average track that gives a nice lively experience to the crazy happenings at hand.  Sound effects are nice and well-rounded, sounding life like and accurate.  There is a nice balance of the score, effects and vocals, making this 5.1 audio track sound loose and free.

Low Frequency Extension:  This isn’t a busy day at the office for the subwoofer, but you do get some good musical beats, jump scares and the occasional knocking/crashing that brings it some extra life.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Mostly ambiance from the rear speakers.  The front speakers have a fun time chasing all the characters around the house.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is loud, clean and clear.

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Extras 

The People Under The Stairs – Collector’s Edition features a reversible cover showcasing the original poster art for the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Wes Craven
  • With Brandon Adams, AJ Langer, Sean Whalen & Yan Burg

House Mother (HD, 19:26) – Interview with Wendy Robie.  She discusses not being familiar with horror, being inspired by Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter and how grateful she is for David Lynch and Wes Craven.

What Lies Beneath: The Effects Of “The People Under The Stairs” (HD, 15:02) – Each member of the KNB crew discusses their beginnings as a company and the work on this film.

House of Horrors (HD, 16:09) – The director of photography, Sandi Sissel talks about her working with Wes Craven and never having done a horror film before.

Settling the Score (HD, 10:13) – Don Peake, the composer, talks how he was brought on last minute to fix the score that Craven was unhappy with.

Behind-The-Scenes-Footage (HD, 6:39) – On set home video footage of the scene where Ving Rhames’ character is gutted.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:18)

TV Spots (HD, 1:21) – Featuring the score from Aliens

Vintage Making Of Featurette (HD, 3:43) – Old EPK, features some generic blurbs about the film from Wes Craven.

Original Storyboards (HD, 6:55)

Still Gallery (HD, 4:17)

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Summary 

Another crazy vintage 80s horror title done by Scream Factory, another slam dunk (er, slice?).  Revisiting this movie proves to be anything but scary, but its incredibly, weird, bizarre, crazy and most of all really fun.  The technical merits on the video transfer and the audio are both very strong.  The extras knock this one out of the park.  Another amazing Collector’s Edition from the masters of vintage horror Blu-ray titles.  The only thing missing is a new Craven interview, but he’s got a ported commentary here, so its not like he’s absent.  Definitely pick this one up to add to the collection.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “The People Under The Stairs – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    Hell yeah! Can’t wait for my copy!