Last weekend, I was at a small holiday shindig of thirty-somethings, the kind where there's often a movie on in the background but few people are actually paying attention -- there's also music and food and alcohol, after all.
This all changed when a friend hit play on Home Alone. We crept over. We sat. We quieted down.
Home Alone is not just a movie. When it hit theaters in 1990, for a certain generation, it was as though someone had reached directly into your brain, catalogued your sublimated elementary school-age fears, dreams and desires, and molded them into a blockbuster holiday release with a memorable cameo from John Candy. Kids love to fantasize about chances to display their independence, no matter how improbable (see: the cabal of 11- to 13-year-old girls running a successful, sophisticated business at the center of The Babysitters Club series). They long for opportunities to prove they're not afraid of anything. Problem is, they're generally afraid of lots of things. Like, say, the radiator.
I only mention this severely emotional attachment to the film as a preface because -- intensely warm, spiced, jingle-bell-soundtracked feelings aside -- what jumped out at me upon viewing the entirety of Home Alone for the first time in roughly a decade is how incredibly dark it is. In an excellent oral history of the movie for Chicago magazine, filmmaker John Hughes recalls taking special care to make the violence cartoonlike, because otherwise the facts of the plot -- after a child is abandoned by his family, two adult petty criminals become obsessed with trying to break into his home and, soon after, with causing the child some awful yet unarticulated bodily harm -- do not a feel-good movie make.
It's a darkness that was not lost on Macaulay Culkin, apparently. Witness, below, a universe in which Kevin McCallister was scarred for life by the events of that eventful Christmas (as he probably would be, were the character real). Here we see him moonlighting as an employee (contractor?) for some kind of rideshare company; he's in a terrifically unhealthy relationship and wants only to act out, repeating the cycle of abuse in which he was an unwitting victim so many years ago. One could also read the entire narrative as a thinly-veiled metaphor for the myriad ways the eternally hungry yet fickle Hollywood fame machine chewed up and spit out this particular former child actor and friend of Michael Jackson's. Or not.