I want to play a game. Don’t worry, there’s no skin melting acid or face-breaking mechanisms in this one - it’s just a simple guessing game. Well, unless you get it wrong.... So think carefully: what film am I describing here…?
It’s a classic of its genre, combining prankster hijinks with a twisted tale of family values, offering redemption and growth in the face of adversity. It’s also a film defined by its fetish for traps, intense violence, and murderous rage, depicting more than one deadly consequence for dubious morality.
There's only two options that could fit that paradoxical synopsis; and they're films on either end of a very varied spectrum. So is it Home Alone, or Saw?
The truth is - considering the themes of each of the films - it’s really a description of both. Though it doesn’t actually matter, as somewhere along the line, thanks to Jason Concepcion drawing some seriously complicated lines between the two: they became canon in the same universe.
Now, that may sound like senseless fabrication, but honestly, if you stop to think about some of the sadistic death traps laid out by our one and only Kevin McAllister it really isn’t a stretch to think he continued his reign of terror into adulthood; and there’s plenty of evidence littered throughout the films to back this crazy idea up.
Starting from the bottom, the most #basicbitch part of this entire theory is that Kevin and John Kramer look pretty similar. Yep, Macaulay Culkin’s pasty white skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes just get a wrinkly makeover by Tobin Bell, so they’re definitely the same person. Undoubtedly.
Moving on from there, there’s the obvious thematic links between Kevin and John’s trap-crafting skills, the former honing a set of sadistic creations that come to fruition when he’s older, wiser, and has less to lose. Kevin is painted throughout Home Alone as a cute little boy defending his home from burglars the only way he knows how - but what eight year old actively drops hot irons on someone, or rigs a flamethrower at human height to barbecue an actual person’s head? Kevin’s antics are generally portrayed as “hilarious”, but take one look at his deadpan face when he’s inflicting life-altering injuries on the wet bandits and there’s clearly something dark lurking under his angelic demeanor. Maybe leaving him behind wasn’t a mistake after all…
On the evening before the family’s departure for their holiday, Kevin lets loose on his brother Buzz in a rage upon learning his pizza has been eaten and he’ll be sharing a room with his bedwetting cousin; physically launching at him in a display of unstable violence. He’s too small to do real damage, but does manage to knock him back - the first indication that Kevin has some anger issues boiling away under the surface that are expressed with violent tendencies.
Kevin’s instability is reflected again in his visions of the monster in the basement, which in actuality is just a furnace. It’s a repeated point and one that he eventually gets over, but it becomes particularly relevant when looking at Saw 2. Hiding antidotes to a slow acting poison around a boobytrapped house, we see the same set up as Kevin’s home recreated in the basement, complete with giant furnace. One of the group is forced to crawl inside to retrieve the cure, promptly being cooked alive in the process.
It could be argued that John, now a grown-up Kevin, is utilising his fears to be used as traps - enacting his worst nightmares on this group of victims from his childhood trauma regarding fire. The blowtorch on Harry’s head and the superheated doorknob are other examples of his obsession that eventually turned into traps such as the flammable jelly scene, which also interestingly utilised walking through broken glass as laid out by Kevin’s smashed tree ornaments.
Stylistically, the furnace could be argued to inspire the reverse bear trap and other such mechanical, dirty imagery that crops up throughout the Saw franchise too: but there’s more than just the wood burner that sets this theory alight.
All of Kevin’s traps are activated by their victims, and they themselves can figure out how to avoid them entirely if they pay enough attention. Jigsaw punishes those he chooses in the same way, letting the victim decide when their timers start and often including failsafes that are missed or ignored - such as the bathtub key or the furnace switch. The wet bandits often miss obvious signs that Kevin has laid out for them that would save them a lot of pain, but instead, ignorance is punished severely throughout both franchises.
Most interestingly of all, Kevin and John are equally obsessed with audio-visual content, with Kevin utilising his television multiple times to scare off intruders or communicate. John regularly uses TV screens or tape recorders to do the same, showing an inherent link in their interests as well as their modus operandi.
Further linking the two sadistic, pain-inflicting, cringe-inducing characters is their strangely moral centres. John Kramer sets up his nightmarish creations to make people reevaluate and appreciate the life they’ve been given, suffering through life-altering trauma to come out the other side a better person. Whilst Kevin is arguably in it for the fun when it comes to punishing the burglars - he does give some sage, adult advice to Old Man Marley about reconnecting with his son in light of their estrangement, much in the same 'carpe diem' mentality as his older counterpart.
Kevin went through some serious sh*t being abandoned by his family not once, but twice, so there’s at least a spark that suggests why a sweet young boy snapped and stopped seeing the good in everyone around him. You can hardly blame the poor kid.
What do you think of this theory? Share your reactions below in the comments thread.