Discussion Questions for “The People Under the Stairs”

Write a paragraph or two in response to each of the following prompts.

What is the significance of the title “The People Under the Stairs” both specifically to the narrative of the film and looking at the term from a broader cultural context? What sorts of people are “under the stairs” and why? As the title of a horror film, this phrase is meant to provoke dread in potential viewers, but are these people monsters, victims, or heroes?

How would you describe Craven’s hero Fool (aka Poindexter)? How does he get his nickname? Who are his friends and family? What are his predominant character traits and motivations? You may also want to compare and contrast him to Romero’s hero Ben from “Night of the Living Dead.” For extra credit, you could even include in this mix the protagonist Mookie from Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (see below).

How are the police portrayed in “People Under the Stairs”? What is their relationship to the communities they serve and protect?

The narrative action in this film contains a brief but striking pause at about the one-hour mark before it launches into the final half hour of the movie. What brings about this pause and what terminates it? What is this pause important to the story and to our understanding of Fool and his hero’s quest?

What are the main themes and what is the overall message of “People Under the Stairs”? How does the extreme “psycho” horror of the film interact with its larger social and cultural commentary? Compare the portrayal of Black characters as well as the racial and economic messages of Craven’s film to those in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.”

Published by Chuck Caruso

writer of dark fiction (crime, horror & western noir), literary & textual scholar (american gothic, noir, po-co, sf), and cultural critic

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