The Doctor Is In: The Real Life Implications Of The Burglars’ Injuries in ‘Home Alone’

That's gotta smart.

That’s gotta smart.

There’s a certain suspension of disbelief one needs in order to enjoy almost any Hollywood movie, and perhaps none more so than the holiday classic Home Alone. The plot in a nutshell: Kevin McCallister (Macauley Culkin) gets left behind when his family leaves town for Christmas, enjoys himself to the fullest and then has to protect the house from burglars Harry and Marv played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. To do so, he employs a bunch of DIY torture devices and seems to inflict a lot of pain on the Wet Bandits. But come on, how could those guys have handled the pain from even one of those injuries?

The Week wanted to find out what kind of damage paint cans to the face, blowtorches to the head and walking on Christmas ornaments would really do to the human body, and asked a real life doctor to weigh in. The resulting commentary is pretty dang fun. We pulled a few of our favorites below. Enjoy and Merry Christmas to you and yours. Here’s to hoping you don’t get a BB gun to he forehead.

The injury: Iron to the face — Kevin rigs up a hot iron in the basement so that it swings in and hits Marv in the face. Ouch, right?
Doctor says: “Let’s estimate the distance from the first floor to the basement at 15 feet, and assume the steam iron weighs 4 pounds. And note that the iron strikes Marv squarely in the mid-face. This is a serious impact, with enough force to fracture the bones surrounding the eyes. This is also known as a ‘blowout fracture,’ and can lead to serious disfigurement and debilitating double vision if not repaired properly.”

The injury: A blowtorch to the scalp — Harry’s head gets fried after he walks through a booby-trapped door.
The doctor says: “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.

The injury: Paint can to the face — both burglars end up at the receiving end of speeding paint cans on the staircase.
The doctor says: “Assuming the paint can is full (roughly 10 pounds) and the rope is 10 feet long, Marv and Harry each take a roughly 2 kilo-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.”

And the best diagnosis for the very last!

The injury: Shovel to the back of the head — the Wet Bandits almost have Kevin pinned at a neighbor’s house, when he’s saved by the elderly neighbor who hits the burglars on the head with his shovel, knocking them out.
The doctor says: “Seriously? At this point, Marv and Harry have both suffered potentially crippling hand and foot injuries. Harry has proved to be nearly impervious to burns, and both managed to retain consciousness after taking a flying paint can straight to the face. Suddenly, a frail elderly man appears and weakly slaps them in turn with a flimsy aluminum Home Depot snow shovel. And, somehow, this is too much for them, and they collapse. This movie was way more believable when I was 8.”

Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars’ injuries: A professional weighs in [The Week]