Wes Craven had a gift for reading the room. He was always in touch with where society was and made his movies accordingly. A Nightmare on Elm Street perfectly married the rise of the 70’s slasher to the bombast of the 80’s. New Nightmare was a bellwether for the ironic self-awareness of the late 90’s upon which Scream then fully capitalized. But looking back, arguably Craven’s most reflective and socially relevant work was The People Under the Stairs.
If you haven’t watched People in the last few years, you may vaguely recall it being about a bizarre brother and sister couple keeping a pack of feral teenagers locked away in their basement. Or since Craven deliberately cast Wendy Robie and Everett McGill together as ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’ Robeson, you might remember it as the fourth-strangest episode of Twin Peaks. Either way, you’d be forgiven for wondering how such a wild hodge-podge of cannibalism, leather fetish suits and incest could possibly be that important. Watch it today though, and it becomes apparent Wes Craven was trying to have a conversation much of society wouldn’t catch up with for decades.
The People Under the Stairs is plainly about the marginalization of minorities, class inequality, sexism, the patriarchy, isolationist nationalism and even healthcare. All the topics at the center of today’s rising culture war were highlighted on-screen a quarter-of-century ago in a movie that came and went with little fanfare during a period when horror was in a supposed decline.
Given this degree of prescience, it seems fitting People should begin with a reading of tarot cards.
Read More – See No Evil: The Current Social Relevance of ‘The People Under the Stairs’ – Bloody Disgusting