DIY torture devices – Don’t try this at ‘Home Alone’

A charcoal iron box for ironing clothes.

In the hands of Macauley Culkin in “Home Alone,” a hot iron is one of the DIY torture devices used for home security. Please, don’t try that at home. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Rojypala/Wikipedia)

For those of you who were watching television this holiday season, did you manage to catch one of the more modern classics among Christmas movies, “Home Alone?” The little boy lost/home invasion story starring young Macauley Culkin as the mastermind whose DIY torture devices keep bungling hoods Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern at bay is solid slapstick family entertainment. From the standpoint of realism, however, it is very Hollywood. Even one of the DIY torture devices could cause serious injury above and beyond the proverbial bruised ego. Thanks to The Week, we now have real-life experts’ views on just how much damage Culkin’s brand of home security would do. Pesci and Stern’s stuntmen would opt for body armor.

DIY torture devices injury No. 1 – An iron to the face

Culkin’s first Wile E. Coyote-esque DIY torture device is a hot clothes iron that swings down and strikes the unsuspecting Stern square in the face. In one medical doctor’s opinion, a 4-pound steam iron swung from a similar distance of 15 feet would have struck Stern’s character in the face with enough force to fracture his eye sockets. Such blowout fractures can easily lead to disfigurement and permanent double vision if not treated promptly and properly.

DIY torture devices injury No. 2 – A blowtorch to the scalp

Next comes a booby-trapped doorway that puts the hot in Pesci’s hot head. While victims in the real world who are not in anything resembling a vegetative state would instinctively jump away from open flame applied directly to their heads, Pesci’s character holds a pose for about 7 seconds. This is done for comedic effect in the film, but there’s nothing funny about the kind of injury such DIY torture devices can deliver. A doctor told The Week that not only would there be a problem with second- or third-degree burns, but such long exposure to the flame would be likely to cause necrosis of the skull bone. The skin would rot away and the bone would become so damaged that a skull transplant would be necessary. Good luck with that one.

DIY torture devices injury No. 3 – A paint can to the face

Similar to the iron on a rope injury, the paint can trap manages to make mincemeat of both the hapless hoods. If we assume that the paint can is full, it would weigh approximately 10 pounds. Swung via a 10-foot rope, an expert estimates that the facial impact would by about 2 kilo-newtons. In other words, the impact would fracture multiple facial bones, dislodge teeth and knock anyone without a protective helmet out cold.

DIY torture devices injury No. 4 – Shovel to the back of the head

While an aluminum shovel to the head would certainly hurt, it’s really no worse than what Pesci and Stern have already suffered. If the heavy hitters and pyrotechnics don’t fell the felonious fiends, a cheap shovel surely won’t do the trick. Such is the logic of Hollywood storytelling. What is certain is that when it comes to using DIY torture devices as home security, one shouldn’t disclose it to their insurance agent and should burn the evidence before the authorities arrive.


The Consumerist

New York Times

The Week

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