Some of Home Alone‘s best moments resulted from happy accidents, and as revealed by a Netflix documentary, the moment Marv got hit with a clothes iron is one of them. Upon release in 1990, director Chris Columbus knew he had made a good movie, but not the classic modern audiences grew to know and love. Since then, fans worldwide have repeatedly watched Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin, outsmart the Home Alone burglars Harry and Marv, played by Joe Pesci and David Stern. Coming a year after Die Hard‘s release, it seemed audiences were inspired by the new unlikely type of hero — the kind that used their brain over brawn. Kevin did this throughout the film, as the many injuries Harry and Marv sustained felt more like carefully choreographed accidents than Rambo-style wipeouts. Kevin used all sorts of tricks, such as a swinging paint can, frozen steps, clever shadows, and the Home Alone iron to the face.
The Home Alone iron trick resulted from a happy filmmaking accident, Netflix’s The Movies That Made Us documentary revealed. Of course, Home Alone was released before the common use of CGI, so there was no padding for the stunt doubles, leaving a small margin for error. This created added pressure for the crew and first-time cinematographer Julio Macat in particular. Macat wanted a backup for his wide shot if the stunt could only be done once. That backup, known as the bonus cam, or as Macat called it, “the chicken **** cam,” was the smallest camera available. But director Chris Columbus and his crew soon realized it captured the gritty, fast, funny, ground-level style Home Alone was famous for better than anything else they used, so it quickly became Macat’s primary tool.
Home Alone’s Stunts Were So Good Because Of Camera Limitations
One of the film’s iconic moments — where the Home Alone iron flies down a chute straight onto Marv’s face — was done using the bonus cam. Macat simply tied the camera to a rope and let it fly down the chute, giving the impression an iron was indeed flying down toward Marv. Macat succeeded in reserving the gritty style Home Alone audiences quickly knew and loved without spending any more money on an already over-budget film. With that, bonus cam “became a star.”
Moreover, Home Alone didn’t have the luxuries of modern VFX but instead relied on fearless stunt performers and an accidental piece of movie magic. Much like Kevin and his battle plan, the bonus cam was an underdog. Macat only used the bonus cam because he was afraid of messing up his new job. Yet, despite starting as an accident, the bonus cam became one of Home Alone‘s best features because, like Kevin, the crew was consistently trying to find new ways to make things click by working with what they had.
Unfortunately, Disney’s Home Sweet Home Alone was unable to capture the magic Fox achieved 31 years ago. Despite the Home Alone reboot team now having the luxury of CGI, huge budgets, safer sets, and more margin for error, it failed to replicate the on-the-fly brilliance which led to Home Alone. It was that small, accident-sized margin that birthed one of Home Alone’s best features, making it one of the best Christmas movies of all time, after all. More than that, though, it highlighted how the movie-making process is never plain sailing. Accidents happen, and that can be a good thing.
CGI Still Hasn’t Topped Home Alone’s Practical Magic
The Home Alone burglars faced a lot of booby traps thanks to Kevin McAllister, and this same theme was prevalent in Home Sweet Home Alone. However, the original movie didn’t have CGI, whereas the latter did, proving that practical magic is infinitely better. The Disney reboot did feature some CGI backgrounds and tricks to pare down the amount of stunt work needed for the final product — but that was to its disadvantage. Home Alone blows the reboot out of the water, and it’s not just because the Home Alone burglars are better than Jeff and Pam McKenzie by miles.
Part of the reason Home Alone is better was that it used practical effects to bring magic to the screen. Happy accidents like the Home Alone iron scene can’t happen when using something like CGI. In addition, advances in VFX and CGI can’t bring to the table what classic slapstick humor can, arguably one of Home Alone‘s strongest comedic elements. The first two Home Alone movies are still the most beloved of the franchise, and that’s because director Chris Columbus was able to experiment with practical effects to create the final product.