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Examining the Lethality of the Booby Traps in ‘Home Alone’

Blowtorches and bricks are the ingredients for a medical emergency.
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For a generation of Americans, the first two Home Alone movies are indispensable holiday classics. Starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, each of the films climaxes with an epic showdown pitting Kevin against The Wet Bandits: two bumbling oafs named Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern). It is hardly a fair match-up; Kevin devises an obstacle course of sadistic booby traps. The pair falls for every one of them, and despite their injuries, continue chasing Kevin. It's a Warner Bros. animated short come to life.


In real life, however, what effect would these booby traps have on the human body? To find out, Motherboard interviewed Joseph O'Hare, an EMT who works in New York City. He rewatched the endings of both films and gave us his professional take.

The Blowtorch Booby Trap

Movie: Home Alone

Victim(s): Harry

Diagnosis: "He's looking at possible 2nd or 3rd degree burns. A burn of this nature has the potential to damage underneath the dermis and affect deeper tissue. One would expect to see deeply blackened skin with severe blistering or even some exposed bone in the area. Placing his head in the snow was a smart move, but depending on how badly he was affected, his body might've gone into shock before he had a chance to do that."

Treatment: "The burn probably wouldn't kill him right away, but it has the potential to be fatal. I'd be worried about hypothermia, hypovolemia, and infection. I'd also take precautions to protect his airway, as he may have an inhalation issue with this sort of injury."

The Paint Can Booby Trap

Movie: Home Alone

Victim(s): Harry and Marv

Diagnosis: "In real life, their faces would be destroyed. Teeth would be sent flying, their noses would be broken, and multiple fractures would probably occur from the impact and the resulting fall. The trauma could possibly create a "brain bleed," and a subsequent hemorrhagic stroke could lead to death."

Treatment: "I would want to immobilize the cervical spine. I'd also be worried about suctioning out and securing their airways as there is a possibility of broken teeth getting lodged in there or fluids building up."


The Bricks Booby Trap

Movie: Home Alone 2

Victim(s): Marv

Diagnosis: "Death. I would not expect a patient to survive this at all. We're looking at multiple skull fractures and I'd expect to see exposed brain matter all over the concrete, and that's just from the first brick. Each consecutive brick to the same area of the skull would just compound the damage to the patient.

Treatment: "On the AVPU (Alert,Verbal, Pain, Unresponsive) scale that EMTs use to gauge responsiveness, he is not Alert, as evidenced by his response to Harry's questions. He is currently at a Verbal level, though in real life, he would probably be Unresponsive and deceased."

The Exploding Toilet Booby Trap

Movie: Home Alone 2

Victim(s): Harry

Diagnosis: "Another full thickness burn to the top of the scalp. This one is for a much longer period of time and is inside a building. He would present with much of the same signs and symptoms as the blowtorch burn he suffered in the previous movie with possible exposed bone and bubbly, blistering black skin. With the building going through an explosion, he would probably have full thickness burns throughout his whole body. It's unsurvivable. Exposure to the IDLH (Immediate Death To Life Or Health) conditions inside the building would definitely kill him."

Treatment: "Unlike the previous burn, there probably wouldn't be a suitable place left on his body to take a skin graft. His inhalation risk increases more than tenfold because he's inside. He's breathing in multiple carcinogens and other hazardous materials. I'd be worried about my own scene safety in approaching this incident."