Tom Jolliffe revisits a holiday staple, and looks into the dark underbelly of Home Alone…
Home Alone is 30. Macaulay Culkin turned 40 this year. If that makes you feel old, I apologise. The film turned the former child actor into a mega star, and in a short run of largely repetitive films, Culkin suffered burnout. Home Alone meanwhile spawned a number of sequels, one with Culkin, and a further three with a new fresh faced and slightly irksome young kid, protecting their home. The last two were TV movies, and additionally, to varying degrees the post Culkin instalments have been cynical cash grabs exploiting the Home Alone name. The original film though in this past 30 years, has remained a classic Christmas time staple. Nowadays the film is often mentioned in discussions about the best Christmas films. It’s essential viewing over holiday season (released November 16th 1990, and swallowing Thanksgiving and dominating up until almost Christmas itself).
On face value, Home Alone is a family film with a precocious young kid, accidentally abandoned by loving parents, who protects his house from burglars whilst learning to appreciate his family. The darker interpretation of Home Alone though, is about a psychopath in the making, spurned by a heartless and grotesque family who persistently belittle him, until he finally cracks. Sure, the Wet Bandits, two hapless criminals, are law breaking ne’er do wells, but they haven’t reckoned on encountering the deranged lunacy of Kevin McCallister. His weapons are sadistic. His methods are cruel. In an alternate reality somewhere there’s a film focusing on Kevin at 30, now a rogue mercenary interrogator. The best in the business, no morals, working for wealthy war mongers, who probably spends his time at home, making necklaces out of ears. Either that or he’s become Patrick Bateman.
When you rewatch this twisted tale, you may find yourself increasingly dismayed at how shit his family is. His mother is the only one with a shred of emotion, but in the end she still (twice) had the oversight to abandon her kid because she was so focused on going on the kind of holidays mere mortals can only dream of. The dad, a total douchebag, who does the square root of fuck all to help in two films, is oblivious to mere human emotion or empathy. He’s just interested in flashing his cash. The whole family are entitled and cretinous (Uncle Frank makes Donny Trump look reasonable), the very worst depiction of consumerism during the late 80’s/early 90’s.
Pa McCallister must also be completely corrupt given the size of his house, and the fact he can treat his equally gruesome relatives to all expenses paid luxury, at Christmas of all things. I mean, imagine the mark up on plane tickets, hotels, restaurants etc. The McCallister fortune has probably left many a third world victim buried. The humble farmer who in desperation, smuggled some of the poppy crop home to try and make a little money, caught, captured, executed and buried. Have I shattered the illusion of Home Alone yet? The drug cartels associated with McCallister have probably used extreme force in driving villagers from homes, capturing able bodied young men and forcing them to work in drugs warehouses. Ma McCallister knows, but she has those fancy coats, she doesn’t care.
In a twist of irony though, Buzz, the horrible older brother, but probably still, moral backbone of the entire clan (believe it or not), regales a cousin and Kevin about the story of the old man across the road, burying victims in his trash can full of salt. This old man though, or at least the fantasy version Buzz concocts, is actually Kevin’s fate, for he will stalk and kill victims in his later years, burying them in trash cans and pour salt on the bodies.
Still, you can of course, still watch Home Alone as a good old Christmas time frolic. Those dark undertones that I’ve made up (note WB, gimme a call if you want to make an Old Man McCallister horror film) may be there, but you can still enjoy the litany of sight gags, groin hits, prat falls, and high impact face hits. Additionally, the heart of the film lies in the old man’s story of reconnection with his own family after years apart. The end of the film he’s able to see his son and his granddaughter again and grown men watch, and the house suddenly gets dusty and the allergies start playing up (no, YOU’RE crying).
Above all this though, my favourite part of Home Alone, an absolutely unshakably essential part of yuletide home viewing, is the scene stealing turn from John Candy. Candy, one of the most affable presences in cinema history was a consistent delight in almost everything he did, projecting warmth, and also able to offer heart, and furthermore, always hilarious. Candy riffs and plays and ad-libs and brings so much to his small role. The yearly re-watching of Home Alone only serves to remind us just how talented the man was (and indeed in my yearly viewings around the thanksgiving season for Planes, Trains and Automobiles).
What are your thoughts on Home Alone? Let us know on our social channels @flickeringmyth.
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due in 2020/21, including The Witches Of Amityville (starring Emmy winner, Kira Reed Lorsch), War of The Worlds: The Attack and the star studded action films, Renegades (Lee Majors, Billy Murray) and Crackdown. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.