STRAW DOGS Lite. HOME ALONE, a surprisingly violent, paranoid fantasy for kids, became the highest grossing comedy of all time. It also made a star out of a funny-looking kid named Macaulay Culkin. Eight-year-old Kevin McCallister (Culkin) feels slighted by his large, obnoxious family and throws a temper tantrum on the eve of a vacation trip to Europe. Exiled to his room by his mother (Catherine O'Hara), Kevin fatefully wishes that his family would disappear. The next morning, he awakens to find himself all alone in the house. Scared at first, he soon proves adept at fending for himself. As his guilt-stricken mom begins an arduous journey back from Europe to rescue her son, Kevin elaborately defends the house against a pair of menacing but comically inept burglars (Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci). The first half of HOME ALONE features the sugar-coated sentimentality that can usually be found in a Hughes film, while the second half is full of unanticipated sadism (a close-up of Stern's bare foot slipping slowly down a six-inch nail is the film's most ghastly image). As directed by Chris Columbus (HEARTBREAK HOTEL), the film's slapstick falls flat and only the pain remains. Yet the film's message seems even more disturbing than its violence. This could be the first comedy--it's certainly the first holiday film--which focuses on child abuse. As Kevin shoots pellets into the intruders and takes a blowtorch to their heads, he's directing the hostility he feels toward his neglectful parents at these two guys. The only really likable thing about this film is Culkin (UNCLE BUCK, JACOB'S LADDER). He's an uncommonly natural child actor, but even he doesn't always survive the tiresome gags (the aftershave bit is funny once; three times is tedious).