Friday, 23 December 2016

Home Alone: Adventures in Childhood Escapism

So guys I have been planning on posting this and today is finally the day so buckle in for a big ol' film essay. It's a little different from what I normally post but I'm damn proud of it so enjoy.

Being a child was scary. You were small and vulnerable and everyone else in the world seemed 20 feet taller and walked quickly past you. Yet you feel impervious, strangely unstoppable; you may be two feet tall but you can do anything you dream of.  For me, as a child, I always dreamed of escape from, well, anywhere really. There was nothing nasty or strange about it just that thrill of getting out of peoples clutches and exploring places. Like a small, blonde, bespectacled Houdini I got out of more and more ridiculous situations, however there was a rub. After the thrill of escaping comes the terrifying revelation that you are completely alone. A feeling that’s absolutely terrifying when you are two feet tall; as fun as it is, it’s strange and scary to be small and alone.

I wonder if that’s why people love the original cinematic Home Alone movies so much. Both Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York capture that feeling perfectly. The feeling of both fear and escapism that being a child on your own brings.  I think that’s the reason Home Alone has such a place in our hearts, we know what it’s like to be Kevin McAllister.

As soon at it hits the 6th November at least four terrestrial channels and about eighty separate digital ones will air Home Alone 1 and 2. Not bad for a 26 year old film that when it was released was described by the late Roger Ebert as “implausible” and he goes on to say he didn’t really care about the plight of Kevin at all. Which I think is truly interesting. Ebert goes on to say what a real kid would do in this situation, a list of things I truly believe that children probably wouldn’t think to do. Maybe it’s because I liked to be the great escapist but on discovering I’d been left Home Alone I wouldn’t have tried to get the phone working. Hell, that would assume I could remember phone numbers something I don’t think many children can do.

Needless to say the general public didn’t agree with Ebert as Home Alone is generally ranked as one of the top Christmas films of all time only surpassed by Die Hard. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York didn’t do too badly either. John Hughes certainly made an intelligent decision to take Kevin away from a known environment for the sequel.
The second film invokes that moment you look around the supermarket where you were sure your mum was standing right next to you and realize she’s gone. For a minute it’s scary, but then you imagine the possibilities. You could live in the supermarket and live only on doughnuts and pickled onion Monster Munch, drinking Sunny D. It’s all possibilities and the fear gets thrown to the back of your mind because after all you are just a kid.

The more I think about it, the more I find it weird than one of the most famous, family-friendly Christmas movies is one that reminds us of childhood fear. Maybe it’s the way the fears are presented. Kevin doesn’t just sit huddled in a corner crying that he’s alone. He goes out and defeats the bad guys, buys his own food and eats junk food while watching TV. Something everyone relates to. He isn’t acting like a real kid but the dream version we all thought we were when mum left us in the supermarket.

Perhaps that was why there was so much excitement when last year Kevin McAllister was brought back for the first episode of a web series called Dryvers -people lapped it up. It was trending on twitter quickly after release and was popping up around the Internet all over the world. This Kevin wasn’t the cute fearless child but an older, scarier maniac who couldn’t drive, didn’t answer his mum’s calls and made a trap for bad guys.  Our collective Christmas dream of being invincible as a child had all grown up and yet no one seemed to mind because the next day on a terrestrial channel somewhere someone was watching the original Home Alone.

Kevin McAllister may have grown up but he’s still trapped in time. Every Christmas thousands of Children and Adults see the same child being unstoppable and silly and perhaps it reminds them that maybe just maybe not everything is as scary as it seems. In fact, sometimes, scary can be fun.

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