There is a certain stigma that comes with holding on to the movies of our childhoods. Some would argue that constantly revisiting the films we loved as kids is a telltale signpost along the arrested development cul-de-sac. However, there are occasions wherein these seemingly juvenile cinematic outings provide the basis for crucial life lessons that only become more relevant as its viewers reach adulthood. Often we don’t even recognize these lessons until it is too late, or, more favorably, when some other movie accidentally highlights their significance.
Take for example Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, out in theaters this week. This high energy home-invasion horror flick is as clever as it is brutal. While viewing You’re Next, you may be inspired to reflect upon your favorite home-invasion flicks from years past, but one experience from your past that might not immediately leap to the forefront of your mind is Chris Columbus’ Home Alone.
However, if there is one thing we can take away from You’re Next, it’s that the teachings of Kevin McCallister can be extrapolated into a more pragmatic grown-up, self-defense lesson plan. Wingard’s film is essentially the payoff for those wise enough to follow Kevin’s example.
When push comes to shove, and situations force lives into jeopardy, most run for cover and strike the unflattering fetal pose. It’s true that when Kevin was first confronted with the sight of his snow-shoveling neighbor, his first response was to scream awkwardly and sprint away like a lunatic. The ultimate revelation of the old man’s benevolence notwithstanding, Kevin quickly realized that retreat was not an effective strategy. By the time the Wet Bandits made known their nefarious plot to steal the McCallister family valuables, Kevin becomes resolute; firmly asserting, “This is my house; I have to defend it.”
One character in You’re Next makes a similar affirmation, though internally, when the vicious siege of the reuniting family begins. Erin gives herself a moment, not even the full span of a minute, to be terrified, and then leaps headlong into the logistical business of survival. What You’re Next therefore illuminates from within Home Alone, for all its comedic overtones, is that the real enemy is fear and conquering that fear is the first step toward victory. Given that Kevin was eight years old and also given that the animal pack murderers in You’re Next are far more frightening than the Wet Bandits, both Kevin and Erin’s courage levels are proportionately balanced.
As any Boy Scout will tell you, it pays to always be prepared. We cannot overlook the benefit of advanced planning and/or specialized training. In Home Alone, young Kevin doesn’t just scatter Micro Machines haphazardly or carelessly dump out a bag of Christmas ornaments. There is careful deliberation in his burglar countermeasures, and, if you recall, he even draws up a “battle plan” before setting to work.
You’re Next has drawn the passing comparison to Home Alone because its surprise protagonist sets a couple of traps for the intruding baddies. However, the Home Alone doctrine supported by You’re Next is more specific. Like Kevin, Erin is very deliberate with her devices. She knows tossing a few nails under the window is not efficient. She has the foresight to attach the nails to planks of wood and then shrewdly set one plank within eyesight from the windowsill. This way, the invader will see one set of nails and think himself safe before springing the real trap. It’s that attention to detail that seems bred of the McCallister school of home defense. Granted, Erin did grow up on a survivalist compound, but then for Kevin, what too is being the youngest in a house of five children if not a daily exercise in self-sufficiency?
Planning is well and good, but the best laid plans of mice and McCallisters oft go awry. At one point, Kevin’s schemes are nearly thwarted when one of the Wet Bandits leaps over a trip wire and grabs his leg, precluding his escape up the stairs to the third floor. Kevin does not panic in this moment, nor does he surrender. He recognizes the need to adapt and sees a passing pet tarantula as a serendipitous ally. Erin likewise rolls with the punches, though again her method of adaptation tends to be a bit more explosively violent. For example, when a masked invader suddenly grabbed her through a window, she… stabbed him in the eye. Still, further evidence that improvisation is essential, just as Home Alone gently espoused.
The most commendable trait possessed of Kevin McCallister, much like that of MacGyver, is his resourcefulness. He is able to make use of the household objects at his disposal to defend his home. With little more than the contents of a toy box and a toolbox, Kevin proves himself a formidable adversary for any foe regardless of age. It may seem the most fantastical element of Home Alone, but Kevin’s ability to creatively weaponize household objects is potentially the film’s most useful takeaway.
You’re Next’s Erin is once again the embodiment of the R-rated version of this component. Like Kevin, there is no item within her periphery that cannot be used as a weapon. Where Kevin swings a paint can, Erin makes savagely ingenious new use of a kitchen blender. After watching Home Alone as kids, many of us looked around our own homes to determine the best commonplace intruder deterrents, never knowing whether we would be called upon to blast a villain with feathers from a pillowcase or, as in the more grown-up scenario displayed in You’re Next, bash in a killer’s skull with a meat tenderizer. Personally, I hope for the feather option, but all avenues must be considered.