It’s been 30 years since Home Alone debuted on the big screen. After its release on November 16, 1990, it was #1 at the box office for 12 weeks straight before it was released on VHS. That’s right—VHS.
Macaulay Culkin may have been the lead actor, but we think the star of the show was the booby traps that Kevin set around the house to ambush the two burglars.
The mischief certainly made an impact on the kids who saw the movie. While it was still in theatres, the Baltimore Sun quoted a fourth-grader who said, “The booby traps he rigs to fend off the bad guys have been the talk of the lunchroom at Talbott Springs Elementary School.”
While the homemade defense system is hilarious to watch, a medical doctor’s analysis found that real-world injuries from some of these antics would be more severe. In the scene where Marv gets knocked out by a falling iron, the medical expert said that a four-pound object dropped 15 feet to the basement would have enough force to cause a blowout fracture that breaks the bones in the face. Yikes!
Despite the burns, cuts and falls, the Home Alone booby traps still make us laugh. Now that the movie has been around for 30 years, could you navigate the McCallister house while avoiding all of the booby traps?
Can You Find All of Kevin’s Traps?
From the ice on the basement steps to the iron falling down the laundry chute, Kevin had to get creative to defend his home from the two burglars. How many of his mischievous traps can you find in this recreated floorplan of the Home Alone house?
|1. BB gun|
Kevin used his BB gun to shoot Harry and Marv through the dog door.
|2. Icy front steps|
After Kevin poured water on the house’s front steps, the cold temperatures of Chicago’s winter caused the concrete to ice over. Harry fell twice when trying to get to the front door.
|3. Icy basement steps|
Kevin also poured water on the outdoor basement steps. Marv slipped after taking the first step and fell the rest of the way down to the basement door.
|4. Fake light bulb|
After getting inside, Marv pulled a string to turn on the basement’s overhead light. However, Kevin set up a fake light bulb that caused a hot iron to fall down the laundry chute onto Marv’s face.
|5. Red-hot M doorknob|
Kevin used an electric barbeque starter to heat the front doorknob from the inside. When Harry tried to open the door, he burned his hand. The embossed “M” on the doorknob left a permanent brand on Harry’s palm.
|6. Tar-covered basement stairs|
When Marv tried to climb the basement’s interior staircase, he got stuck to the tar-covered steps. He lost his shoes and socks, and then he stepped barefoot onto a nail.
As Harry enters through the back door, the movement triggers a blowtorch that sets fire to the top of his head.
|8. Chicken suit|
In a Rube-Goldberg-style booby trap, Harry first walks into plastic wrap that’s covered with caulking glue. After he’s sticky, Harry then inadvertently triggers a fan that blows feathers onto him.
|9. Xmas ornaments|
After climbing through the window, Marv steps barefoot onto glass Christmas ornaments.
|10. Toy cars|
Both Harry and Marv slip and fall after stepping on the toy cars that Kevin left at the bottom of the stairs.
|11. Paint cans|
Kevin had tied paint cans to the top railing of the stairs. When Harry and Marv tried to climb up, they are both hit in the face with swinging paint cans.
At the top of the stairs, Harry didn’t see the tripwire, and he falls to the ground while chasing Kevin.
Marv thinks he’s captured Kevin, but Kevin is saved by dropping his brother’s pet tarantula on Marv’s face.
|14. Rope cut with pruning shears|
As Harry and Marv are trying to get to the treehouse, Kevin uses pruning shears to chop the rope. The duo swings down and smashes into the house’s brick wall.
Filming the McCallister House
The McCallister’s house used in Home Alone is an actual home in the Chicago suburbs. Located at 671 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL, the five-bedroom house is 4,243 square feet and is currently valued at about $1.7 million.
The home has become an icon with fans snapping selfies in front of the private residence. However, most of the shots were actually filmed on a set that was built at a nearby high school gym. Even though it’s a big house, there wasn’t enough space for the film crew to capture the scenes.
Cinematographer Julio Macat explained that the recreated set gave the team space to visually create the nostalgia of childhood:
“We thought about every shot in terms of the point of view of the kid. Because of that, we used wider angles. The height of the camera was lower than you would normally have. Our ceilings were important because we were looking up a lot. Because we thought that kids see everything in an amplified way, we made the lights in the house feel a little bit brighter. Everything was goosed up a notch. It’s kind of the reverse of when you go back to the house where you were raised and everything seems so small.”
It was an even bigger logistical challenge to film the scenes in the neighbor’s home. When the Wet Bandits left their signature calling card by leaving the water running after robbing the neighbor’s home, the overflowing kitchen sink filled up the basement with nearly a foot of water. The scene was shot in the high school’s pool so that it could look just like a flooded basement. FEMA estimates that a one-foot flood in a 2,500-square-foot home would cost about $72,162 in repairs, so filming in the pool helped save the movie’s budget.
Home Alone and Its Cultural Nostalgia
On the 30th anniversary of Home Alone, the movie has become a time capsule that looks back at the culture and technology of the late 80s and early 90s.
Pop Culture Icons: The movie was written by John Hughes, who was involved in other classics such as The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Comedian John Candy made an appearance in Home Alone as the “Polka King of the Midwest.” There’s also the infamous cardboard cut-out of Michel Jordan wearing his Chicago Bulls uniform.
Style: Kevin spent most of the movie wearing classic white Adidas kicks. Kevin’s mom wore blazers with extreme shoulder pads, and his brother had a flat-top haircut.
Technology: The burglars wanted stereos and VCRs, which were high-value items at the time. The family used payphones in the Paris airport and had to deposit change to make a call. With home answering machines rather than voicemail, the phone recordings tipped off the burglars that Kevin was home alone. The movie also had a scene with a film camera, showing the pre-digital era where you couldn’t see the photos you took until a week later when the pictures developed and printed.
Food: Microwave dinners were still a novelty. The Pepsi cans had the old logo. Pizza was $12 for a delivered pie, and the average cost hasn’t gone up that much in the past three decades.
Why the Home Alone Plot Wouldn’t Work Today
Home Alone is the #1 top grossing holiday movie since 1980. It earned $285.8 million, which is more than either The Polar Express, Elf or Gremlins.
However, the holiday classic would never be made today. Three decades ago, the plot was a stretch, but in 2020, three things would make the premise completely unbelievable:
- Alarm Clock: The family wouldn’t have overslept after a power outage because their phone’s alarm clocks would have still gone off. Even for traditional standalone alarm clocks, the battery backup still helps people wake up even if the power goes out. If the family woke up on time, they might not have left Kevin behind.
- Logistics: The family was still at home when it was just 45 minutes until their flight’s departure. They never would have been able to catch that flight today with TSA’s more intensive screening.
- Phones: If the family did leave Kevin at home, they wouldn’t need to call around the neighborhood to check on him. They could just call his cell phone, which still works when there’s no power.
- What’s Happening: While they’re in Paris, the McCallisters wouldn’t need to wonder what Kevin is up to back home. They could look on Instagram to see that he’s indulging in a chocolate marshmallow ice cream sundae.
Home Alone 30 Years Later
This movie is one of the great holiday classics, that is enjoyed year after year, and Home Alone’s longevity has prompted yet another sequel.
Disney Plus is making a Home Alone reboot with Archie Yates, Ellie Kemper and Rob Delane. With a tentative release schedule of December 2020, Home Alone 2020 will become the sixth movie in the franchise. There are even rumors that Macaulay Culkin will make a cameo as the owner of McCallister Security Solutions.
Thirty years ago, Kevin’s booby traps helped protect the McCallister home. We’re looking forward to finding out if his security company is still thwarting crime with mischief or if he has upgraded to high-tech security.