Home Alone: Could Anyone Really Survive Those Boobytraps?

The Home Alone films are a festive feast of burglar-baiting traps. A new documentary starring James Acaster and Guz Khan looks into the science of how – if at all – The Wet Bandits could have survived

The Unofficial Science of Home Alone
Photo: Sky Max

Blowtorch to the head, electrocution, deadly tarantulas, flying paint cans – that Kevin McAllister really put those burglars through it in the Home Alone films. When you look back, it’s a wonder they were kids’ films at all. Generations of children watched those poor Wet Bandits get slowly, painfully tortured in their quest to nick a telly and some loose change. 

But would a real-life Harry and Marv have survived the kinds of traps Kevin set them? That’s exactly what The Unofficial Science of Home Alone – a new documentary on Sky Max – plans to find out.

Comedians Guz Khan and James Acaster find out just how deadly the Home Alone boobytraps are via experiments set up by engineer and scientist Dr Zoe Laughlin, before coming up with savvy, science-based ways to survive them. Then they’ll put these theories to the test by taking on the stunts themselves in an attempt to catch their own adorable little Kevin McAllister.

So what’s the (literal) damage from five of the films’ most memorable traps?

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Blow Torch to the Head

With temperatures reaching a whopping 2,000 degrees Celsius, poor Harry would have suffered first degree burns, necrosis (tissue death) of the skull, and possible death. You’ll need more than a little pile of snow to sort that out, mate.

Paint Can to the Face

It turns out there’s 3000 kg of force behind those swinging paint tins – ‘like a three-tonne van slamming into you’, according to Dr Zoe – which would have left the Wet Bandits with cracked skulls, brain damage, broken noses, severe whiplash, broken teeth and (our old friend) likely death. At least they covered one of the above injuries in the film, with Harry’s beloved gold tooth going missing.


Poor, stupid Marv and his big electrified skeleton face didn’t stand a chance. He gets zapped with 240 volts, which in real life would cause cardiac arrest, severe skin burns, burnt internal organs and probable death. Or, in the words of Doctor Zoe, ‘What Marv experienced was enough electricity to kill someone. Happy Christmas.’

Red-Hot Door Handle

Harry was probably asking for it after threatening to bite Kevin’s fingers off one by one, but nonetheless this 326-degree red-hot door knob probably caused second-degree burns, a destroyed epidermis and dermis (the top and middle layer of Harry’s skin). In short, some serious ouchies.

Zipline Fall

As the saying goes, ‘it’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the end’, and that’s exactly Harry and Marv’s problem, as apparently they’d have smashed into that wall with 14 tonnes of force. The result? Well: broken limbs, cracked ribs, punctured lungs, damaged internal organs, loss of teeth, cracked skull and almost certain death. That might, though, have ended the film on a bit of a downer.

So how could Harry and Marv have swerved these fatal injuries if they’d been real-life bandits? Dr Laughlin has some very interesting theories involving a baking tray, a nappy, some meat and more on tonight’s documentary – although we’d probably just avoid burgling houses, if we’re honest.

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The Unofficial Science of Home Alone is on Sky Max on Monday 19th December and then available to stream on NOW