Interiors is an online film and architecture journal, published by Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian. Interiors runs an exclusive column for ArchDaily that analyzes and diagrams films in terms of space. Their Official Store will carry exclusive prints from these posts.
In their first collaboration together as writer and director, John Hughes and Christopher Columbus produced Home Alone (1990). This quintessential Christmas film is a prime example of a “movie home” -- a home that is made iconic and famous with its appearance in a popular film.
The film concerns itself with Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), a young boy whose family accidently leaves him home alone after leaving for a vacation. In this small suburban town, on Christmas, their home is targeted after a string of successful break-ins in the neighborhood. The McCallister Residence as a result becomes the central space where the majority of the action in the film occurs.
The production used an actual home for the setting of the film. The home’s location is 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois, north of Chicago. The majority of the interiors were filmed on location, including most of the first floor, while several rooms were recreated and filmed on a sound stage. Interiors visited the location in July 2014.
In terms of production design, warm colors pervade the interior spaces. The home is made up of reds and greens, attributing and heightening the feel of Christmas and further emphasizing the absence of Kevin’s family. The opening minutes of the film are very dynamic. The use of rapid editing, quick cuts and blocking of the actors in early moments of the film results in a great deal of energy. This fast-paced quality is a stark contrast to the scene that follows, where Kevin wakes up and discovers he is home alone. The emphasis here is on the silence and emptiness of the house. The film further underscores his family’s absence with an exploration of the space of the house. There are shots of Kevin walking around his home, in each of the main rooms of the house. These are mostly played in wide shots, which show off the space of the interior of the home, whereas the scenes prior were all sporadic. In fact, for all of the exploration of space, as well as all the time that we spend in various rooms throughout the home, it’s interesting to note that the audience never sees Kevin’s bedroom. In this sense, Kevin doesn’t have a space of his own and he never really finds his place with his family. Kevin is subjected to the attic, but also finds salvation in his tree house.
The film brings out the architect in Kevin. In preparation for the break-in, Kevin draws up a floor plan of his own, which he titles the “Battle Plan.” The drawing notes the traps that he has planned throughout the interior of the home. Kevin’s floor plan of his home is surprisingly consistent with the actual floor plan of this home. The room to the right of the dining room is never used or shown in the film, and as a result, is excluded from Kevin’s own drawing.
In our floor plan of the McCallister Residence, we examine the break-in that Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) plan, showing them at the back door. The floor plan features a dotted line for each of their routes throughout the robbery; each time a trap occurs on the first floor, we have drawn a silhouette of them.
Kevin’s “Battle Plan” is very architectural in the sense that he devises a trap in every main room or space of the house. Kevin defends this personal space with traps that are devised around the perimeter of the house; every entrance is rigged: icy external stairs, a heated door knob on the front door, ornaments under the window, and a nail on the basement stairs. Kevin also anticipates potential routes during his plan. Harry and Marv separate after they attempt to enter through the back door, but the ultimate plan that Kevin has for them is having them meet at the foyer and travel up the stairs.
The break-in begins with Harry and Marv arriving to the house. They attempt to enter the home from the back door that is connected to the kitchen. Kevin shoots them both through the dog door, sending them on separate routes. They then attempt to enter from the front door (Harry) and the basement (Marv). Harry is unsuccessful because of the traps on the outside of the home: the ice water on the stairs and the fiery door knob). Marv, however, discovers that the basement door is unlocked and is unsuccessful because of the traps on the inside of the home: an iron that falls down trash chute and the tar and nails on the stairs.
The next obstacle Harry faces is the fire torch that is rigged in the kitchen. He then successfully penetrates the space after rushing through the door and breaking in with force. Harry finally makes contact with Kevin as he enters the dining room. Marv successfully enters the house through the living room window. He steps on ornaments, which pierce his feet only because he had previously taken his shoes and socks off in the basement. This could have only worked if one of them had attempted to enter through the basement before the living room showing us that, for the most part, Kevin’s plan could only be successful if executed as Kevin has intended.
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Interiors is an online journal, published on the 15th of each month, in which films are analyzed and diagrammed in terms of space. It is run by Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian. Check out their Website, Issuu Site and Official Store and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A version of their Home Alone article is also available via Set Collective.