Peter ‘Drago’ Tienmann’s The Stairs starts out pretty promisingly, with Kate Martin (Trin Miller) and her son, Jesse (Thomas Wethington), on the way to visit her grandparents, Bernice and Gene (Kathleen Quinlan and John Schneider, who’s aging particularly well).
Gene is taking Jesse hunting and if this were a typical movie this would be the point we learn that Jesse hates hunting but is afraid to tell his grandpa, which creates friction between the two.
Luckily Tienmann takes the trail less travelled, so Jesse doesn’t at all mind shooting a buck they come upon though after it’s done, he wonders off while Gene tracks the deer, not noticing for a time that his grandson isn’t with him.
Jesse is drawn to something – I presume some sort of animal though the movie never shows us what’s caught his attention though soon he finds himself in a clearing, where sits a staircase.
The kid is pretty amazed by this, which makes sense since it’s a staircase in the middle of a forest, though while walking around the back of it something grabs him, and he screams.
While Gene, who is aware his grandson was missing and was backtracking at this point, responded to the scream and soon came upon the staircase.
While his grandson was at first was nowhere to be seen, he eventually makes his presence known as his upper body comes around the side of the staircase.
Something unseen is pulling on the boy’s lower half, and Gene runs to his aid.
Jesse vanishes – we don’t see what happened to him though Gene arrives and starts shooting his rifle at whatever grabbed his grandson.
The movie flashes forward about ten years from the event; a very promising opening.
Now we’re accompanying five hikers into the same forest where Gene and Jesse seemingly disappeared a decade or so ago.
This is where the movie begins to loose its footing. The greatest problem is that the forest reacts differently the second time around than when we were first in it, with the addition of apparitions.
And that’s fine, though why didn’t Gene and Jesse encounter similar phantasms?
I have theories as to why events were unfolding as they were and if I thought that that was what the director was going for I wouldn’t have minded, though that’s not the feeing I got at all.
That being said, the movie is still pretty enjoyable, particularly due to Doug (Josh Crotty), who’s crass and a bit of a lout and Nick (Adam Korson), who whinges a bit but does so in a manner that meshes well with the rest of the cast.
It’s the way people respond to them – as well as how they respond to each other – that really helps bring this section of the movie a welcome sense of humor, which in turn helped me as a viewer move on from a structural change I wasn’t particularly fond of.
The Stairs never becomes particularly scary, and to be honest I don’t think that that’s quite what the director was going for, though on the whole it’s fun, despite the shortcomings.