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Home Alone turns 25: Ranking the Wet Bandits booby traps

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20th Century Fox Film Corp./ Courtesy Everett Collection

It’s been 25 years since Home Alone first hit theaters, and a lot has changed since then: At the time, young Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) — lover of cheese pizzas, fearful of the third floor, someone the French would call les incompetents — defended his homestead the best he could when his family accidentally left him behind. Home alone after they fly to Paris for the holidays, he turned to booby traps. And despite falling for trap after trap after trap, burglars Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) kept getting up and trying again.

In celebration of the film’s quarter-century milestone, let’s reassess the best of Kevin’s beat-the-Wet Bandits pranks. With the help of Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil, clinical associate professor of rehabilitation medicine and anesthesiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, here’s our diagnosis, from the ridiculous-but-funny to the head-scratching, How are these guys still standing? salvos.

Spider on the face

Points to Kevin for creative use of diversions, but this likely gave countless children spider nightmares and did little to help his cause.

 

BB gun to the face/groin

Technically, the faux Christmas party and fireworks-as-fake-gunfire were Kevin’s first attacks against Harry and Marv, but those don’t count as traps because they happened before the bandits broke into Chez McCallister. (First lesson of Home Alone: Secure your doggie door.)

And, as Dr. Nampiaparampil noted, “[Getting hit in the groin] wouldn’t kill you, but it could be extremely painful, and then, long-term, you may have problems with fertility.” Perhaps that’s why we never see any little Harrys running around.

Trip wire across the hallway

A brief interlude between better gags. Sadly, we can’t all be paint cans or flaming hot doorknobs (more on those later, of course)…

Glue and feathers

How does this help Kevin keep Harry and Marv from robbing his home and causing him bodily harm? It doesn’t. Is it funny? Absolutely.

 

Stepping on Christmas ornaments

After losing his shoes earlier in the house, you’d think Marv would have learned to watch his step. You’d think wrong.

“It’s is like stepping on broken glass. It can be very painful and can make it difficult for you to stand or walk. These injuries are hard to treat because it’s so hard to remove the tiny shards,” said Dr. Nampiaparampil, adding, “If the ornaments penetrated into the deeper tissues, you would worry about the tendons, fat pads, and nerves in your foot getting injured.”

 

Cutting the tree house zip line

Now’s when we move from the potentially painful stunts to things that really seem like they could injure people. Don’t try these at home (alone), guys.

Slipping on toy cars

A funnier gag than the trip wire, but still doesn’t hold up to the antics ahead.

 

Slipping and falling on iced steps

Harry slips down the frozen front steps and Marv does the same down the ones to the basement – these are the instances that are most immediately dangerous, according to Dr. Nampiaparampil.

“Of all the booby traps that were set, these are the ones where, let’s say you fell the wrong way and hit your head or your neck, these are the ones that will actually kill you right at the time,” she said, “whereas most of the other traps, you could get injured but perhaps still walk away — you’re not in as much danger.”

Iron falling on Marv’s face

“With this one, it really depends on a person’s pain tolerance, but I feel like most of my patients that I see, if they got an injury like that, it’s not just a superficial burn,” said Dr. Nampiaparampil, noting the iron left an impression on his face where it hit him. “If it left such an imprint but you’re not all the way down to the muscle and the bone you have what’s called a partial thickness burn, which for most people are the most painful burns.”

 

Grabbing a red-hot doorknob

Even without the “M” for McCallister seared into Harry’s hand when he takes hold of that red-hot doorknob, this is definitely a night he won’t forget anytime soon (and he doesn’t — there is that sequel…).

“If you think about your hands, you have all these nerves, you have all the arteries, veins and everything else, and the tendons. So usually we look at people to see if someone’s nerves or tendons are damaged, but if you get scarred you can get contracted into that position. There’s the pain, but there’s actually the fact that you might not be able to use your hand as well after that,” said Dr. Nampiaparampil.

 

Stepping on a nail

We dare you to watch this one without cringing (and also wondering if your tetanus shot is up to date).

“With stepping on a nail, your main risk is for infection. So, the things that we think about, let’s say you did this in your own house, you’d go get a tetanus shot. So that’s not something that would affect you immediately, but it’s something that could cause a problem in the long-term,” explained Dr. Nampiaparampil. “And even if you didn’t get tetanus, depending on the size of the nail and how big it is, it’s still a foreign object that’s in your body. So if it’s got bacteria on it, it can bring that bacteria into your body itself.”

Burned by a blowtorch

Talk about feeling the heat. 

“When they have these burns and they got up and kept going, that’s really unlikely that a person is going to do that if there’s a lot of tissue damage,” Dr. Nampiaparampil said. “And then putting your head in the snow [which Harry does after the blowtorching] sounds like a creative solution, but there’s all kinds of bacteria everywhere, so they might have survived, let’s say, in the first Home Alone, but by Home Alone 2 they might have had a lot more problems.”

 

Shovel to the back of the head

Technically, it’s not Kevin who executes this one, it’s Marley — and just in time, as the Wet Bandits were this close to paying Kevin back for all the havoc he wreaked on them. But, still, swift and effective. 

Double dose of paint cans

After all these antics — this one, Dr. Nampiaparampil says, would lead doctors to worry about brain injuries similar to those in motor vehicle accidents or football collisions, due to the momentum from the impact — it seems unlikely the Wet Bandits should still be standing, let alone trying to loot the McCallister home. “By the end of the movie, yeah. They would end up in the hospital; they’d probably end up with a lot of long-term damage.” And probably not getting Lost in New York

 

 

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