Okay, so it’s a bit (well a lot late) but it’s finally updated 🙂
Tonight’s double feature is a double dose of 90’s horror featuring actor, Sean Whalen (Twister, Never Been Kissed, Laid to Rest). Our two features tonight will be The People Under the Stairs (1991) and Idle Hands (1999).
The People Under the Stairs (1991)
Directed by Wes Craven
“In every neighborhood there is one house that adults whisper about and children cross the street to avoid.”
In a run-down ghetto, a boy named Poindexter aka “Fool” (Brandon Adams) is roped into helping rob the house of his family’s landlords, the Robesons, by a thug named Leroy (Ving Rhames) who is dating his sister Ruby (Kelly Jo Minter). Fool and his family are in the process of being evicted because they are three days late with their rent, and they are unable to come up with the money to pay. The rule of their landlords is because they are three days late, they have to pay three times the amount of their normal rent. Fool decides to go along with the plan to rob the Robeson’s in order to save his family from getting kicked out into the street. It is rumored that the Robeson’s have a hidden stash of gold hidden somewhere in their house. The next day, Fool, Leroy, and another burglar, Spenser (Jeremy Roberts), go case the house. Fool pretends to be a Bear Scout in order to approach the house, but the woman who answers the door is very cold to him, and tells him to go away. She also does not allow him into the house when he asks to use the bathroom. Spenser then takes his shot at getting into the house, pretending to be an electrician in order to gain access to the house. The woman lets him in after some cajoling on his part, and after she notices a ring on his finger in the shape of a skull. The look she gives as she closes the door tells up that things do not look good for Spenser. A little while later the woman leaves the house. After a while, Spenser has still not returned, and Leroy is getting antsy. He thinks that Spenser may have betrayed him, so he and Fool enter the house. They are quickly attacked by a large dog, and after they escape that attack with minimal damage, they split up to explore the house. Fool heads to the basement where he comes upon the dead body of Spenser, who happens to be holding a gold coin, and he also hears strange noises. He rushes upstairs, sees that the Robeson’s are returning, finds Leroy, and tells him that Spenser is dead. Soon Fool and Leroy are pursued by the Robeson’s- who consist of “Mommy” (Wendy Robie) and “Daddy” (Everett McGill).
Leroy ends up dead, but the Robeson’s do not yet know Fool is in the house, and he escapes when he follows a rag doll into the walls. He meets a girl who lives in the house, Alice, who says the Robeson’s are her parents. They have spent their lives trying to find the perfect son and daughter. Alice is perfect because she does not hear/speak/or see any evil, but all the boys that the Robesons have brought home have not been deemed good enough as they have tried to rebel, and so they have been mutilated and stuck in the basement. She has one friend, named Roach, who escaped from the basement, and now lives in the walls. Mommy and daddy soon discover that Fool is still in the house, and they go on a rampage, especially when they find both Fool and Roach in Alice’s room. Fool and Roach try to escape into the walls of the house, and Alice is punished- she has to clean up Leroy’s blood in the foyer. Will Mommy and Daddy catch Fool and Roach, or will Mommy and Daddy get what’s coming to them?
The People Under the Stairs is a like darkly comedic modern fairytale of evil “parents” who have stolen children and mutilated them when they don’t turn out to be perfect. Alice is the princess being held captive that the hero, Fool, comes to rescue. The story also involves the riches that the Robeson’s have hoarded that Fool is trying to locate so that he can save his family, and the other people of the ghetto, from the clutches of the evil Robesons. The portrayals of Mommy and Daddy are over-the-top and endlessly disturbing. They are incestuous (they are not actually husband and wife, but rather brother and sister), sadomasochistic, cannibalistic, and obsessively religious, with their focus on perfection, seeing/hearing/speaking no evil, and their insistence on everyone going to Hell. The house that they live in is incredibly bizarre with its seemingly endless rooms and maze-like corridors, its passages within the walls, and its booby-traps. It’s like some find of absurd funhouse that I for one would not want to be trapped in, although I wouldn’t mind owning a house like this- I’ve always wanted to live in a house with secret passageways and the like- I just wouldn’t want to have a bunch of mutilated people living in the walls.
Idle Hands (1999)
Directed by Rodman Flender
“The Devil will find work for idle hands to do…but what happens when he chooses the laziest teen slacker in the world to do his dirty work?”
This stoner comedy/horror film centers on a lazy slacker, Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa), who finds out that his hand is possessed by some kind of demonic force the day after his hand kills his parents without his knowledge. One night, as Anton’s parents (Fred Willard and Connie Ray) are preparing for bed after a vigorous day of Halloween decorating, they turn off the light, only to see a message written on the ceiling, stating that something is under the bed. Pretty soon they both are killed by something unseen. The next morning, Anton wakes up, does his slacker thing, puts on some headphones, heads downstairs, switches on the TV, and looks for some pot, which unfortunately he is out of. He heads over to his slacker/pot head friend’s house, where his best friends, Pnub (Eldon Henson) and Mick (Seth Green) say they are out of pot. We get a glimpse of his love interest, Molly (Jessica Alba) as she rides down the street on her bike, and she drops her journal which is full of her poetry and song lyrics, which Anton thinks are brilliant. He heads to her house to give her back the journal after some cajoling from is friends, and after borrowing a pair of pants, but when he gets there he ends up losing his nerve. He returns the notebook, and then leaves abruptly. He heads home, and is accosted by a couple of cops (one of which is Sean Whalen) who went to school with Anton. He makes fun of them, they search his pockets, and find an empty baggy that smells like marijuana, and decide to charge him with drug possession. He points out that the bag is empty, so they drop the bag on the group and write him a ticket for littering. After arriving at home, and having an unsuccessful attempt at smoking an oregano and nutmeg combination, he prepares to make a sandwich, failing to see the blood on the knife. After he takes a bite, he sees the blood, and hastily spits out the bite of food. He then freaks out, using his lazy dog to explore the house looking for his parents, and he eventually finds them dead, disguised as Halloween decorations.
His friends come over at this point, and after some delayed reactions, they see the dead parents. After finding some clues that point to Anton as the killer, he realizes his hand is possessed. The possessed hand ends up killing his friends, who soon come back as zombies (although they don’t seem to be the flesh-eating kind, but more the comic-relief kind), and Anton’s hand ends up forcing him to go over to his love interest’s house. While he attempts to control his possessed hand, Molly ends up showing Anton that she shares his affection, and they make plans to go to the school dance together. Anton is finally able to leave. After a few more murders at the hands of his hand, he decides to cut it off with a cleaver….but the hand still has a mind of its own. Meanwhile, we are also following a druidic high priestess (Vivica A. Fox) who is trying to locate the hand so that she can destroy it. Will she find it in time?
Idle Hands seems to be a movie very typical of the time in which it came out, with the predominance of marijuana smoking slackers, but just put into a frame of a horror film. The premise of the movie is that, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground”, and this particular demon has chosen to possess Devin Sawa because he is the laziest of slackers, and has “idle hands”. He lives a life where he apparently never attends school, stays in his room for days at a time, and lives for getting high basically. The demon that possesses his hand not only forces him to kill, but also gets him out of his house and into the world again, so I guess not everything was a negative effect of the possession. The murders in this movie are never played seriously- the death of Anton’s parents was never really addressed other than when he finds the bodies, but he never was sad, and we never dwell on their deaths. The deaths of his friends weren’t anything to feel bad about either because they just come back to life as zombies- they are the same though personality-wise, they just look a little decayed, although this saves the problem of having to find actual costumes for the school dance. After Anton chops off his own hand (which seems to cause him minimal pain) the murders escalate when the hand escapes, and heads for the school dance. We are treated to some death and mayhem at the hands of the hand, we get some more incompetence at the hands off our leads as they try to track down the hand, and we even get a cameo of The Offspring as they perform at the school dance, kind of reminiscent of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones performing at the party in Clueless!! This movie was much better than I expected it to be, and there were many hilarious moments, but also some awesomely gruesome and interesting death sequences that definitely made for enjoyable viewing.
Thoughts on the double feature
Some SPOILERS may follow
– Both movies obviously share the acting talents of Sean Whalen, who always reminds me of a young Steve Bushemi. In The People Under the Stairs he has a larger role as the mutilated but heroic Roach who saves Fool on numerous occasions, and is a great friend to Alice. In Idle Hands he is more of a losery loser for lack of a better word who wants to be a hero and has become a police officer due to this desire, but seems to be more into getting revenge on those who make fun of him.
– Both movies are comedic horror films.
– Both movies include a severed hand. In The People Under the Stairs, the hand of one of Mommy and Daddy’s victims is fed to their vicious dog. In Idle Hands, the possessed hand is cut off voluntarily and goes off on a vicious rampage of its own.
– Both movie involve scenes where our heros/victims crawl around in walls and vents. In The People Under the Stairs, the house of the Robeson’s is filled with secret passageways in the walls, and Fool, Alice, and Roach crawl around in these passages for safety. In Idle Hands, Molly and her friend escape into the vents in the school to try to get away from the possessed hand.
– In each movie Sean Whalen’s character dies L In The People Under the Stairs he dies by shotgun, in Idle Hands, by possessed demon hand.
– The father in The People Under the Stairs looks eerily similar to the father in Idle Hands. That may just be me though.