The Stairs starts with 11-year-old Jesse (Thomas Wethington) and his grandfather Jean (John Schneider, Dukes of Hazard, Penance Lane) going hunting. The story is based on stories of hikers who found stairs in the middle of the woods. Mom (Trin Miller, St. Agatha) and Grandma (Kathleen Quinlan, Chimera Strain, Event Horizon) wish them luck. They quickly shoot a deer, but while they are following it, Jesse sees something and runs after it. His grandfather catches up with him just in time to see him being pulled into the back of a staircase in a clearing.
Nick (Adam Korson), Josh (Brent Bailey, Break Even), and a few of their friends go hiking in the same woods twenty years later. Rebeccah (Stacey Oristano, Shockwave) doesn’t have to wait long before she starts seeing strange and bloody things in the woods. But the nightmare doesn’t start until they find one of them with her husband and baby.
Even though the title of the movie is “Stairs,” the stairs don’t play that big of a role in the movie. After the first few minutes, we don’t see them again until after an hour. The Stairs is a movie about a monster in the woods for most of its length. It even has a warning about people going missing during the “Blood Moon,” though it is a bit strange.
The Stairs is a lot of fun on that level. There are many different creatures hiding in the forest, and they were all made to look real. The most disturbing thing, though, is a man (David S. Hogan, The Parish, Beta Test) who is angry and badly hurt, along with his clearly not-human wife and what looks like the maggot baby from David Cronenberg’s version of The Fly. That whole scene has a very “what the fuck” kind of feel to it.
This is the first movie that Peter “Drago” Tiemann directs and the first movie that Jason L. Lowe writes. They do, however, have a lot of experience with special effects and stunt work, where they often work together. And for people who have never seen it before, they’ve made a very interesting setup and some nice set pieces.
Unfortunately, they also make a mistake that many first-timers do: they don’t explain how things fit together. Nobody ever tells us what’s under the stairs. Scenes shot in Seattle’s Georgetown Steam Plant are definitely creepy and make good use of the location, but what is it? And why does it seem like time has stopped? Why does the entrance only show up sometimes, and why does it look like a set of stairs? And what are the animals that are after the hikers? I thought it was a mix of Door in the Woods and The Axiom, but without the explanations that those movies had.
And that’s too bad because it hurts the movie as a whole. And there is a lot to like about The Stairs. The dark woods look strange and dangerous thanks to cinematographer Ryan Purcell. And everyone in the cast, including Tyra Colar (Survival Skills) as Rebeccah’s girlfriend Jordan and Josh Crotty (Psycho Stripper, Doe) as “Dirty” Doug, is good at what they do.
The Stairs is still worth seeing, and if you live in one of the cities where the film is being shown in theaters, you might enjoy it even more. It’s too bad that the script doesn’t let it be as good as it could have been.
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