Home Alone is unquestionably a Christmas classic, along with being one of the most financially successful movies of the 1990s. Released 25 years ago today on November 16, 1990, the Chris Columbus-directed family comedy is fondly remembered for its slapstick humor, its unapologetic sentimentality and a star-making performance from Macaulay Culkin as young Kevin McCallister, a boy left behind in the Chicago suburbs by his rich, negligent parents who fly off to Paris and forget their spawn in a million dollar mansion. You probably remember the aftershave, the lovable shovel-wielding neighbor and the cruel dismissal of Buzz’s un-photogenic girlfriend (Woof!). What you might not remember? The film’s utter brutality.
That’s right: this is a sick, twisted film. After setting up McCallister as the film’s charming, impish protagonist, Columbus and co-writer/producer John Hughes encourage the audience to laugh along with our blonde-haired vigilante as he deals out violent bodily harm and psychological torment to the two incompetent thieves who show up at his house. While others have pointed out the many alarming parallels between young Kevin and Jigsaw, the sadistic anti-hero of the Saw franchise, there’s another movie that Home Alone has occasionally reminded me of: Sam Peckinpah’s brutal 1971 revenge film Straw Dogs. But surely, there couldn’t be a connection between innocent Kevin McCallister and mild-mannered David Sumner, the neebish mathematician played by Dustin Hoffman--or could there be?
According to an excellent Slate feature on the filming of Home Alone’s booby-trap-filled final act, Straw Dogs was at least a common reference point for one member of the film’s production staff. In the article, the writer speaks with the film’s production designer John Muto, who says, “I kept telling people we were doing a kids version of Straw Dogs.” He actually said that. “A kids version of Straw Dogs.” If you haven’t seen Straw Dogs, here’s a taste of what Muto is referring to: