The Stairs is a 2021 American horror film about a group of hikers who unknowingly stumble upon a long-forgotten evil.
Directed by Peter ‘Drago’ Tiemann from a screenplay co-written with Jason L Lowe, based on Tiemann’s storyline. The movie stars Adam Korson, John Schneider, Brent Bailey, Kathleen Quinlan (Parallel; Chimera; The Hills Have Eyes 2006; Event Horizon) and Josh Crotty.
In 1997, a young boy named Jesse (Thomas Wethington) is out hunting with his grandfather (John Schneider), when he stumbles upon a mysterious staircase deep in the forest. The subsequent disappearance of the pair leaves locals baffled as to their fate.
Twenty years later, a group of five hikers set off on an ambitious trail, deep into the same stretch of wilderness. With each step away from civilization, they are pulled deeper into the treacherous trap of the mountain terrain where they stumble upon the same set of ominous stairs.
Descending deep below the earth, they find themselves coming face to face with the thing that nightmares are made of…
No, The Stairs is not based on a famous M.C. Escher drawing. If only it were…
After a strong, semi-hallucinatory beginning, the debut feature from stuntman Peter ‘Drago’ Tiemann resolves into a relatively routine monster-in-the-woods movie, with logic holes left in the foliage or laying around (presumably be filled by possible sequels, as with the Phantasm series).
The setting is the Washington state wilderness town of Index, plagued by disappearances and sasquatch rumours. In 1997 a boy and his grandfather vanish during a hunting expedition; viewers behold that right before an attack by clawed humanoids, the pair witnessed a mirage-like image of a pristine staircase, ascending to nowhere out of the loam.
Two decades later a hiking expedition of adults treks through those same woods during a portentous “blood moon” to their prepared cabin. Macabre apparitions – some of which only a few of the characters seem able to see – and what may be a nest of sticks symptomatic of Bigfoot occupation, contribute to a decent sense of rising dread before the uncanny stairs reappear.
Unfortunately, most of the riddles add up to no solid answers. The antagonists are a toothy race of monsters (though the budget can only allow for one, in a baggy lizard-like suit) nicknamed “grub daddies.” The human victims, possibly caught in a time warp (or not) struggle to avoid being grub-daddy food, finally discovering a homemade superweapon similar to the one that finished the shark in Jaws, but here back to the level of an absurd B-movie contrivance.
With a lengthy early scene of a pitiless deer hunt (conveying the gruelling death of a wounded stag solely through sound effects, rather than showing anything inhumane/expensive onscreen), it is possible an anti-hunting theme is Stair-ing viewers in the face here. Most likely, though, it’s just a typical wilderness-set monster time-filler with a few scenes of non-sequitur surrealism to hold one’s attention. Maybe if there’s a bigger budget for a sequel, the filmmakers show more monsters, and maybe upgrade to an escalator. We would settle for more questions resolved, even in half measures.
Charles Cassady Jr., MOVIES and MANIA
This film won’t be for everyone. And this reviewer will readily admit to being nonplussed by the initial set-up and bland title. However, the bizarre ‘family’ encounter that the protagonists experience and the fantastical Twilight Zone-like setup soon draws you in if you are in the frame of mind that’s open to inventiveness.
Nothing makes sense and nothing is explained. But why should it be? There are many things in life and death that remain inexplicable. The Stairs operates on an existential nightmare level and that’s fine. It’s also surprisingly touching which maybe seems at odds with its surrealistic set-up yet adds to the overall viewing experience.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA
“The Stairs points at some thrilling pieces of horror and sci-fi, but unfortunately, while it does lean more to the horror side of the ledger, it never fully lets the audience in on rationale for the grub baby, the stairs, or the time-shifting underworld that houses the full spook show. This lack of exposition isn’t particularly problematic, but it does make clear The Stairs really is an amalgam of ideas without a strong north star.” The Scariest Things
“Director Peter ‘Drago’ Tiemann and writer Jason L Lowe both make their feature debut here […] And, for first-timers, they’ve created a particularly interesting setup and some nice set pieces. Unfortunately, they also make the common first timer’s mistake of not tying things together or explaining them. We never find out what is under the stairs.” Voices from the Balcony
” …creature-feature fans should find the practical effects makeup and creature suits impressive. The ensemble cast, which also includes Kathleen Quinlan as Jesse’s grandmother and Trin Miller as his mother, does a solid job, and Tiemann builds the tension admirably. The Stairs offers a good share of surprising revelations and creepy creature action.” When It Was Cool
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