Securing your home and developing a well-organized defensive plan is crucial. But what happens when Hollywood attempts to depict home-defense situations? Sometimes these stories turn out to be unintentionally realistic. At other times they’re utterly outlandish. And every once in a while film producers and directors get Hollywood home defense plans pretty close to right.
Famous Hollywood Home Defense Plans
Here we present several movies that have great home or area fortification and defense scenes—using firearms, improvised booby traps or both. We also discuss whether the home defense plans presented could work in the real world.
Laurie Strode has been preparing for the return of Michael Myers since the original Halloween came out in 1978; in this sequel/reboot, she lives like it. She resides in a house modified for an inevitable attack by the dogged and silent masked serial killer. Laurie has reinforced the first-floor windows and doors so she can control entry, built steel roller doors (think scaled-down, steel garage doors) on every second-floor room, installed an array of floodlights on the exterior of the house and turned a basement under the kitchen into a panic room/armory with a moving kitchen island serving as a secret entrance. When the attack begins, she arms herself with a shotgun, a lever-action rifle, a revolver and a fixed-blade hunting knife. So far, so good. But it’s almost painful to watch her execute her plan.
First, she doesn’t turn on the floodlights until after Myers, already on the grounds, kills the first person in her group. Then, she doesn’t activate the armored doors on the second floor until after Michael Myers has gotten in the house. She then closes each one as she clears each room, using a lever-action rifle with a flashlight held in her support hand; you watch it and just wish someone would give her an AR with a weapon light on it.
After she’s nearly killed by Myers multiple times, we’re meant to believe it all went according to Laurie’s plan. She and her daughter trap Myers in the basement and set the whole house to blow in a gas explosion.
Would It Work?
In this movie, Michael Myers isn’t supernatural. He’s just a dude with a knife. He even loses a couple of fingers to a shotgun blast. And he never uses guns. Laurie would have been better off locking down everything and taking up a defensive position somewhere with a clear view of the front door with her 12-gauge at the ready, and just waited for ol’ Mikey to break through, with the basement as a fallback position, considering it was full of guns and there’s only one way in or out. The pieces for a great home-defense plan are here, but the execution fails. And so did the fireball, apparently, because both Laurie and Myers are returning in Halloween Kills this year.
Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
This latest installment in the Rambo film series sees John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) settled into a quiet life on his family’s Arizona ranch where he was raised, until a woman he regards as his daughter runs afoul of a human trafficking ring based in Mexico. John launches an attack across the border to bait the cartel members who destroyed his new family, but only after he makes some special preparations at his family home, and in the tunnel network he designed beneath it. When the cartel comes calling, he’s ready.
Since he’s a former Green Beret and Vietnam vet, it makes sense that Rambo utilizes a number of booby traps the Viet Cong used in their tunnels during the war. The dark twists and turns are filled with the equivalent of punji traps, spring traps attached to such things as sharpened pitchforks and even a two-man deadfall lined with steel spikes—in addition to tripwires attached to grenades, homemade explosives and even one attached to a drawn compound bow mounted to a bracket inside a doorway.
And, oh yeah, he has guns stashed throughout the tunnel network. There’s also a loudspeaker hooked to a Walkman that he uses to confuse his enemies. When the bad guys arrive, Rambo springs from trap doors disguised with vegetation with a shotgun and then a rifle to thin their numbers. The he goes underground, forcing his attackers to follow. Only one makes it out alive, because Rambo allows it.
Would It Work?
It’s hard for the audience to figure out exactly how Rambo is moving through his network of tunnels. But assuming they are laid out in the right way, and considering the character’s skill set, this scenario is a bit over the top but not superhuman. It’s definitely plausible, especially for an action movie. Rambo leads the attackers into an environment where he confuses them by noise and darkness; plus, there are deadly traps at every turn. If Rambo hadn’t been focused on keeping the head honcho alive for a personal confrontation, the bad guys wouldn’t even have lasted as long as they did.
Home Alone (1990)
In his efforts to protect his home from two burglars, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) creates a number of mostly jokey booby traps from household items in this family holiday classic. But most of them could do some heavy damage if they were real.
From simple things like a nail in a roof shingle set point up on the stairs to a tripwire that activates a blowtorch when a door is opened, most of his traps could seriously maim people; either that, or kill them outright. There’s no way anyone survives paint cans to the skull followed by a free fall down a flight of stairs. They’re dead. Even the goofier traps, like the glue-covered plastic wrap and feathers, or the stairs covered in tar, would be effective enough to slow attackers down. And if anyone remembers what it was like to step on Micro Machines left on a wood floor … you know that’s some deadly shit, for sure.
Would It Work?
If the two burglars are as dumb as the two burglars in the movie, and Kevin’s goal is to simply slow them down until police arrive, or kill them straight up, then yeah, this plan would likely work pretty well, especially the area denial traps set at the entrances. I think a real-life burglar would consider tapping out after his head caught on fire. But if Kevin had had a rifle instead of a BB gun, they never would have gotten past the back door. The unbelievable thing is that Kevin could get all that crap cleaned up by morning.
In the middle of the epic sci-fi action movie, Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team of special forces commandos are being systematically hunted by an otherworldly creature in a dense jungle. After the body of one of their dead is stolen in the night despite an elaborate perimeter of tripwires and mines, Dutch reasons the creature can see their synthetic tripwires and booby traps, but maybe it wouldn’t be able to see traps that blend into the jungle.
The team works together to build a large net trap, with Dutch acting as bait. It almost works—almost. Later, Dutch faces off against the alien creature alone, armed with only a knife, a couple of 40mm grenades and a bow he makes from jungle materials. He picks a gully with a large fallen tree acting as a bridge as the spot to make his stand. He leads the creature to a vicious trap set in the gully that would have impaled it on a series of sharpened stakes he carved with his survival knife. However, things don’t go as planned. Dutch has to trigger the trap himself, crushing the alien with the trap’s counterweight instead.
Would It Work?
Leading a pursuing enemy force into an ambush is a tactic U.S. Navy SEALs used since the Vietnam War; it works pretty well, especially executed by well armed and well trained men. It stands to reason that leading an alien hunter with superior weaponry into a trap is about the best plan Dutch could’ve dreamed up, considering what he had to work with. In the end, his plan actually fails. He only survives thanks to the alien’s code of honor and a bit of luck.
Straw Dogs (1971)
David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and his wife Amy (Susan George) have to defend their cottage in the British countryside from a group of crazed locals out for blood. The assault lasts for the entire final half hour of this once-controversial movie. Sumner, an intellectual bookworm who generally abhors violence, eventually pushed too far, famously declares: “I will not allow violence against this house. No way.”
Like John Rambo, David uses music to confuse the attackers. He blares a bagpipes LP from a record player in the living room as the attackers smash the home’s windows. At the outset, he turns off all the lights on the first floor, but turns on all the lights upstairs; this lets him see the men outside, but makes it hard for them to see in.
Using a length of wire, he secures a window by the handles after setting pots of oil on the stove to boil. He later tosses these at his attackers as they try to enter the house, wounding several. A fire poker is his main defensive weapon. But he and Amy both use an old double-barrel, side-by-side shotgun they take from their attackers to defend the cottage, along with a memorable moment involving a large man trap meant for catching poachers in the old days, kind of like a giant bear trap.
Would It Work?
The characters owe a lot of their success to the extremely sturdy rural cottage, with its hefty doors, and windows that are apparently easy to break but hard to climb through—and to the fact that the band of attackers are very, very stupid and don’t expect David and Amy to fight back. There’s a lot going on in this attack, but the violence is very realistic and completely believable. Through sheer tenacity and inventiveness, David and Amy survive a good while. But if two of their attackers hadn’t turned on each other, they likely wouldn’t have made it.
Death Wish (2018)
In the remake of this 1970s classic, surgeon Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) turns to vigilantism after home invaders kill his wife and severely injure his daughter. He then switches from vigilante to home defender, as the last remaining bad guy comes for him and his daughter following her hospital release.
He stashes his teenage daughter in hidden space under the stairs before heading upstairs to the master bedroom. First he sets up the classic pillows-as-a-person-under-the-blankets on his bed, and turns on the shower in the adjoining bathroom. The first guy through the bedroom door pumps most of a magazine from his CZ Scorpion into the pillows on the bed. After seeing it’s not a person, he moves on to the bathroom. There, Kersey ambushes him with a headshot from a two-toned Springfield Armory XD-M pistol.
The next bad guy in the bedroom sees his comrade on the floor with his full-auto CZ beside him. But Kersey is really holding the carbine from beneath the bed. He raises it and blind fires in full-auto as he rolls out enough to fire his pistol with his other hand as well. The gunfire drives the attacker through the door and then through the banister to his death below.
Kersey moves downstairs with his handgun, and then to his basement lounge, looking for the last bad guy—the leader. Ambushed and shot in the arm from behind, he collapses on his couch. The bad guy gives a fairly typical, but short, bad-guy speech; this gives Kersey the opportunity to activate a switch on the side of the coffee table with his foot. A hidden compartment springs open, revealing a BDR-15-3G AR pistol made by F-1 Firearms. He snatches the stockless gun and pumps a full magazine into the last man responsible for killing his wife.
Would It Work?
As far as home defense plans go, it’s decent. Stashing a hidden firearm in the last room he plans to clear isn’t a terrible idea. The surprise from under the bed is a little goofy, but not totally ridiculous. Also, setting up in an area that has only one entrance is solid. Kersey runs into problems when he starts trying to clear rooms, in that he has no idea how. He runs a pistol with no light and fails to properly check his corners, and the bad guy shoots him. Plus, it’s tough to get past the idea that, as a new gun owner—in Chicago, of all places—he apparently purchases a full-auto AR pistol inside of a month.
This article on Hollywood home defense plans is from the Aug/Sept 2020 issue of Personal Defense World magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.