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Twentieth Century Fox

The Science of Home Alone: Would Kevin Have Killed The Burglars?

20 DEC 2014

When it comes to Christmas movies, it's hard to beat Home Alone.

There’s Christmas songs, slapstick, Macaulay Culkin, and a heart-warming message about family at the end.

But have you ever wondered whether the two of burglars could actually have survived all of Kevin’s traps - some of which are pretty brutal? Back in 2012, Lauren Hansen over at The Week decided to get some answers, and interviewed Ryan St Clair, a medical doctor from Weill Cornell Medical College, to break down exactly what the impact of Kevin’s shenanigans would have been on the burglars' health. And, basically, it’s not great. 


We’ve summarised some of the medical effects of the worst injuries below, but check out Hansen’s full story at The Week to read the whole hilarious analysis (trust us, it's worth it).

And we would hope that all our readers have seen Home Alone by now, but, just in case, we should probably emphasise the fact that there are spoilers ahead.

Injury: BB gun to the head at close-range


You know, this is the scene when Marv puts his head through the doggy door and Kevin shoots him close-range in the forehead. It looks painful, but would it actually have done much damage? According to St Clair, it was survivable. 

“Classic air-powered projectile weapons typically have muzzle velocities of 350 feet [107 metres] per second or less. A BB fired at close range from such a weapon could break the skin, but will not penetrate the skull, and is unlikely to penetrate Harry's scrotum, especially through fabric,” St Clair told Hansen.

Injury: Grabbing the hot doorknob

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In this scene, Harry tries to get in the front door - only to grab a doorknob that’s burning bright red. Sure, he screams about it, but St Clair explains to Hansen that the impact of this injury would actually be far worse.

"If this doorknob is glowing visibly red in the dark, it has been heated to about 751 degrees Fahrenheit [399 degrees Celsius]. By comparison, one second of contact with 155 degree [68 degrees Celsius] water is enough to cause third degree burns.

"The temperature of that doorknob is not quite hot enough to cause Harry's hand to burst into flames, but it is not that far off... Assuming Harry doesn't lose the hand completely, he will almost certainly have other serious complications, including a high risk for infection and 'contracture', in which resulting scar tissue seriously limits the flexibility and movement of the hand, rendering it less than 100 percent useful. Kevin has moved from 'defending his house' into sheer malice, in my opinion." 

Injury: Blowtorch to the head

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Speaking of burns, poor Harry gets scorched again when Kevin’s booby trap blow torch burns his scalp. And, again, he gets off unscientifically easy.

"Harry has an interesting reaction to having a lit blowtorch aimed directly at his scalp. Rather than remove himself from danger, he keeps the top of his skull directly in the line of fire for about seven seconds. What was likely a simple second-degree skin burn is now a full thickness burn likely to cause necrosis of the calavarium (skull bone). That means the skin and bone tissue on Harry's skull will be so damaged and rotted that his skull bone is essentially dying and will likely require a transplant,” St Clair tells Hansen.

Injury: Paint can to the face

HomeAloneFinally, to top things off, Kevin smacks both Marv and Harry (who by now should be in a burns unit... or dead) with a swinging paint can on a string in the face. And they still keep going.

St Clair’s verdict

"Assuming the paint can is full (roughly 10 pounds [4.5 kg]) and the rope is 10 feet [3 metres] long, Marv and Harry each take a roughly 2 kg-newton hit to the face. That is easily enough to fracture multiple facial bones, and is probably going to knock you out cold. Also, I wouldn't expect either of the Wet Bandits to walk away from this with all of their teeth."

So it turns out Kevin would probably have woken up on Christmas day a murderer if Home Alone was real life (although, to be fair, it was in self defence). But thankfully, it’s not, and we love the film anyway.

Go and read Hansen’s full (and hilarious) interview with St Clair over at The Week, and find out how much walking on sharp Christmas ornaments would really hurt, and whether an iron to the face would kill you.

And if you want some more debunking, find out whether that certain Game of Thrones character could have really crushed a man’s skull with his bare hands, and exactly how Viserys would have died from having molten gold poured on his head. Oh and while you’re at it, why not find out the science on whether zombies could really exist.

Happy holidays, science lovers.

Source: The Week