After being warned of people going missing by a local business owner and seeing that 20 years prior a child named Jesse and his grandfather were attacked by something after finding a mysterious and pristine staircase to nowhere, five friends head out into the woods for a camping trip. Unfortunately for them, strange occurrences begin happening as one by one, each member of the party has experiences of their own.
Directed by Peter ‘Drago’ Tiemann from a screenplay co-written with Jason L Lowe, THE STAIRS is a supernatural horror film. The first-time director gives us some amazing shots, especially as we traverse through the woods. Forest settings can be tricky, but the cinematography pulls off making the setting feel ominous and claustrophobic during the nighttime, while also making it feel like a giant forest with lots of room during the daytime.
The writing for this movie has some great building blocks. The first half of the film delivers some comical conversations while also building tension. It takes an interesting turn halfway through as our hiking friends find the staircase with a door in the middle of a forest, and that’s where it lost me in particular.
The “staircase in the middle of the forest” phenomenon has been a real-life story to follow over the last couple of years as many people have found staircases leading to nowhere in several national forests around the United States. That’s led to speculation as to why they exist. This film, no doubt, takes its premise from this real-world story, but like with anything based in reality, the fiction may not live up to what people want it to be.
Some might argue that the movie doesn’t answer enough questions about the mysteries and phenomena it is trying to explore, while I’d argue that it actually gives away far too much. Often horror is much better when you can’t see the monster, That allows your imagination to run wild, and unfortunately, mine couldn’t with this film.
This isn’t me stating that this movie isn’t worth watching though. There are some significantly wonderful scenes throughout including a scene where our hikers come across a man in a suit (David Hogan) and presumably his wife and their baby. It’s a frightening few minutes that leaves us with more questions than we started with.
Of the cast, I particularly fell in love with Nick (Adam Korson), who seems to believe more in the supernatural than his brother Josh (Brent Bailey). The brothers have some great lines and exchanges, especially with Doug (Josh Crotty) who plays that guy who definitely peaked in college, and has the maturity of a 22-year-old despite being much older. Jordon (Tyra Colar) was also fantastic in her role, preferring handshakes over hugs or other intimacy. (Honestly, I don’t even know about handshakes in a post-2020 world.)
THE STAIRS tries to explain the phenomenon in a fun fictional way. It might not be the answer you are looking for, but I also don’t know if it takes the phenomenon as seriously as you might think.
THE STAIRS is now available in select theaters.