Home Alone is more than just a cheery Christmas movie, it can be seen as a horror film for kids.
The fear of being home alone is a common childhood fear, and Kevin McCallister experiences this fear in the movie.
Kevin goes through a period of feeling abandoned and dealing with feelings of worthlessness, which can be psychologically damaging for a child.
Forget the giggles and Kevin McCallister’s cute gags, because Chris Columbus’ Home Alone is a straight-up horror film for kids. Now, while everyone has seen the memes of how Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin is secretly Jigsaw from the Saw films, it’s more than that. The editing and colour grading hide what lies beneath this movie, which is far from a cheery Christmas treat for the whole family. It’s arguably a child’s greatest fear on screen.
Ever since its release in 1990, the John Hughes-penned Home Alone has become a Christmas classic. It tells the story of the McCallister family who must not have had television in their home, because they have more children and relatives than should ever be allowed. The family plan to head off to Paris for Christmas, and almost miss their flight as they oversleep on the morning they are meant to depart. In a mad scramble, they get to the airport in time and board the plane – sans Kevin. Left home alone, Kevin enjoys having the house to himself at first; however, this changes when the Wet Bandits, Harry Lyme (Joe Pesci) and Marv Murchins (Daniel Stern), plan to rob the McCallister house.
First off, every child dreams of being the adult of the house where there are no rules, no supervision, and the ability to eat whatever they want. It’s the ultimate symbol of freedom, exciting kids with infinite possibility and wonder.
Yet, there’s a point when reality hits.
Despite wishing for his family to disappear, the eight-year-old Kevin McCallister reaches a point where he misses having someone around. His mind races with illogical thoughts, blaming himself for making the wish to even wondering if he’s doomed to be alone. For a child, abandonment triggers many issues. As the National Library of Medicine explains: “The child who experiences abandonment feels unwanted, rejected by his or her own parents, and deals with feelings of worthlessness that cause shame.”
From a psychological point-of-view, Kevin goes through the most in this period. Taking into account his age and the time period of the movie, he’s likely aware of A Nightmare on Elm Street film series. Who’s to say that he doesn’t think this is all part of a giant nightmare and unsure if he’s awake or asleep, leaving him vulnerable to Freddy Krueger?
Regardless of how old anyone is, everyone fears someone breaking into their home in the middle of the night. It’s terrifying to think that someone could walk in and harm you when a home is meant to be a sanctuary. Now, imagine little Kevin McCallister in that big house in Chicago.
Sure, he gets revenge, but he must have been popping Imodium all morning in preparation of what’s to come. Even if he boobytrapped the house, he couldn’t know if they were armed or had other plans. Plus, it’s impossible to cover every single angle, as there were multiple entry points for the McCallister home.
So, while he found the courage to fight back (like any good horror protagonist), there’s no disputing he must have been frightened the moment he knew his home was being targeted. It’s like seeing a burglar in the yard and knowing they’re coming – no matter how ready you are with the frying pan, there’s the chance something could go wrong. Also, good thing that Chicago didn’t have the modern-day Eskom in charge of their electricity distribution – or else poor Kevin would have been in the dark and even more scared.
An eight-year-old child fighting off burglars while he is home alone is a horror story to give the chills to any child. That said, Kevin McCallister prevails against all odds. He’s lucky that the Wet Bandits were more like Bebop and Rocksteady than Deadites from the Evil Dead. In the end, his story is something no child should ever have to experience. So, parents, next time you go out, make sure the kids are actually in the car with you before pulling away from your driveway.
Do you agree? Is Home Alone a terrifying horror movie?
Sergio Pereira is a prolific and recognised journalist and writer from Johannesburg, South Africa. His expertise encompasses the topics of comic books, film, television, and video games. For over 16 years, he has built up his reputation and knowledge in entertainment journalism by writing for and learning from the world's largest publications.
Sergio is also an accredited Rotten Tomatoes reviewer and has interviewed numerous celebrities, such as Andy Serkis, Ben Barnes, Idris Elba, Letitia Wright and Frank Miller. He is the author of the highly rated fantasy comedy novel The Not-So-Grim Reaper and numerous short stories. In addition, he is the co-writer of the South African crime drama film The Lifesaver. As a regular columnist, he contributes to Looper, Grunge, Screen Rant, Ranker, CBR, SYFY WIRE, IGN Africa, Thought Catalog and Fortress of Solitude.
For Sergio, all he wants in life is to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles eclipse the Justice League as the greatest heroes of all time. Then, he will sleep peacefully.