Reluctant Townie: 'Home Alone' from an adult's perspective
"Home Alone" appears to be experiencing a renaissance in popular culture.
The massively successful 1990 film, about an 8-year-old who is left behind during the holidays and forced to defend his home from two would-be burglars, inspired several viral infections of the Internet this year, including a remake starring baby pugs — and an article in which a physician diagnosed the real-life injuries sustained by the film's fictional burglars.
Even the film's star, Macaulay Culkin (a name I had to triple spell-check), re-entered the spotlight recently after releasing an album of Velvet Underground covers with lyrics rewritten to be exclusively about pizza. (Buzz would be proud. WOOF.)
"Home Alone" made its annual appearance in my orbit last week, carrying in its hand a stiff porter. The porter, coupled with my aging sensibilities, allowed me to see "Home Alone" in a completely new light: That of a concerned adult.
As a child, I thought "Home Alone" was a lighthearted fantasy about a kid who gets to prove he's just as capable as the adults around him. As an adult, I see the film as a disturbing, cautionary tale about a young man who embraces sadism and "The Anarchist's Cookbook" in the face of parental neglect.
Things that concerned me when watching "Home Alone" as an adult and parent:
KEVIN EATING POPCORN WHILE JUMPING ON THE BED
When 8-year-old Kevin McCallister wakes up to find his family has abandoned him for the holiday, his first instinct is to eat a bag of microwave popcorn while jumping on his parents' bed.
Granted, a perfectly reasonable response for an 8-year-old to have in this situation. (Although I might have aimed a little higher than microwave popcorn.)
But how different would "Home Alone" have been if Kevin choked on a handful of popcorn with no one around to provide him the Heimlich?
Death or dismemberment factor: moderate.
KEVIN CLIMBING A LADDER AND CUTTING DOWN A CHRISTMAS TREE WITH A HANDSAW
Umm, seriously? Didn't any of the neighbors take notice of an 8-year-old sawing off the top half of a tree in his backyard ... on a ladder ... without a spotter?
It's not like he's the Brawny lumberjack. It probably took him a minute to cut through the trunk, and I doubt a kid from the suburbs knows enough to saw a wedge out of the opposite side, so that the tree falls away from him. This could have easily gone from "Home Alone" to "127 Hours" in a Lost-in-New-York-Minute.
Death or dismemberment factor: likely.
KEVIN CLIMBING BUZZ'S WALL-MOUNTED SHELVING
Kevin gets 6 or 7 feet off the ground when the entire shelving unit comes crashing down on top of him ... including a glass aquarium tank containing a murderous tarantula.
(Fun fact: In the original draft of the script, this is where the credits rolled, to the somber sounds of a funeral dirge.)
And all of this, mind you, to STEAL MONEY from his brother's life savings. (Who, admittedly, is wasting it on Playboys and firecrackers.) Total haul is like seven crumpled $1 bills.
Death or dismemberment factor: impaled by shards of aquarium glass. For sure.
KEVIN SLEDDING DOWN THE STAIRCASE
In the reverse shot at the top of the stairs, we can clearly see the staircase does not lead to the open front door, but to a solid wall 4 or 5 feet to the left of the front door. Ergo, the trajectory would not allow Kevin to sled out the doorway and into the safe, snowy confines of his front yard: It would have slammed him at full velocity into the wall.
Death or dismemberment factor: paralysis.
KEVIN STIFFS THE PIZZA GUY
A 20-cent tip? Are you kidding me? No, Kevin, it is YOU who is the filthy animal. It's the season of GIVING, bro.
Death or dismemberment factor: low, but the Uncle Frank cheapskate factor is off the charts.
While going over his to-do list in the bathroom mirror, Kevin applies aftershave to his face ... and promptly screams out in agony.
But if it hurts so much, why does he do it again later in the film? (I can only conclude that this scene was left in to establish Kevin's underlying sadistic drive, which pays off during his brutal assault of the bumbling robbers at the end of the film.)
Death or dismemberment factor: low, but psychologically troubling.
KEVIN'S GLEEFUL ASSAULT OF THE TWO GROWN MEN WHO BREAK INTO HIS HOUSE
"You guys give up, or are you thirsty for more?" These words gave me chills. Kevin is a monster in the making. He is not simply defending his house from criminals. He is taking sick delight in their torture.
Here is a quick list of Kevin's attacks (all perpetrated with a twinkle in his eye): BB gun to the gonads, BB gun to the face, falling iron to the face, blowtorch to the head, branding of family monogram with red-hot door handle, nail through the foot, crushed glass ornaments on bare feet, tarring and feathering (serves no purpose but psychological torture), flying paint cans to the face and maliciously dropping the burglars two stories into a brick wall.
Taken on those terms, Kevin sounds less like the hero of a family film and more like the BTK killer.
Which is even more troubling because ...
KEVIN APPEARS TO BE HAVING A PSYCHOTIC BREAK WITH REALITY
It makes sense — the fragile psyche of a child, abandoned by his family and left to fend for itself, might crack under the stress — but one should not discount the fact that during the film, Kevin suffers from vivid daytime hallucinations that the basement furnace is alive and trying to eat him.
Death or dismemberment factor: a danger to himself and others.
Ryan Jackson wants to see a sequel with grown Kevin who works overnight security in a grocery and catches shoplifters with Matchbox cars and hairspray grenades. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.