3615 code Père Noël, aka Deadly Games, aka Dial Code Santa Claus, aka Hide and Freak, aka Game Over. The many named horror thriller about a boy genius vs a psychotic Santa Claus who play cat and mouse in a mansion gained cult status after its brief 1990 release in France. Having only seen the light of day once again with a Blu-ray release, now 4K, from American label Vinegar Syndrome, now more people can enjoy this bizarre Christmas film and add it to the pile to watch each year. Seeing is believing in this case. You need to see it to understand the sheer insanity and absurdity of the entire film, let alone what was the Santa’s actual motive. Plus, when you hear the husky tones of Bonnie Tyler singing ‘Merry Christmas’ repeatedly, you know you’re in for a very bizarre film indeed.
The film follows Thomas, child prodigy, confined to his home on Christmas Eve with his invalid Grandpa and his beloved dog while his mother manages a local department store on. While trying to contact Santa Claus with his high-tech equipment his messages are intercepted by a deranged vagrant who then claims to be the real Santa Claus. He manages to find out where the boy lives and proceeds to terrorise the boy, while Thomas sets traps to try and capture the man, he believes is the real Santa Claus sent to punish him.
When writer/director Rene Manzor saw Home Alone, he was outraged, he believed that the filmmakers had remade his film. He went as far as threatening legal action, claiming they had plagiarised his film but nothing more came of it. The bare bones of each film do share some similarities but Manzor’s creation is so far removed from the family friendly(ish) world of Kevin McCallister, it’s difficult to say that Home Alone is a remake of Dial Code Santa. For starters, our hero Thomas, isn’t alone and he accidentally got himself into this mess.
The fun and bloody games begin after the tech savvy Thomas sends a message on a chatroom through a Minitel machine, or a videotex online service to you and me. This was the step before the internet came into existence. The message from the child is received by the deranged man claiming to be Santa Claus and really believes the challenge the boy sends him to show up at his home. Both Thomas and the fake Santa Claus believe that the latter is real and it’s this bizarre belief that keeps the actual deadly games going. But when blood is spilt in the house, not just the random people fake Santa has murdered on the way, Thomas thinks he’s being punished for challenging old Saint Nick. At the same time, fake Santa’s motives are questioned throughout. His end game is never really revealed, except in one innocent moment it seems like he just wants to play.
Unlike Home Alone, there is definite bloodshed in this home invasion. Inspired by the action blockbuster films of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the tone and style of the film feels like a homage, even down to Thomas’s costume where he wears war paint. Twisting together this sense of nostalgia before we even knew we wanted it to see this, along with the slasher horror vibe of the 90s, Manzor made a film that ahead of its time. The audience now definitely appreciates what Manzor was trying to achieve. When the film finally had a theatrical release in the US, plus a 4K release, it feels as if the film has fulfilled its destiny to become a cult Christmas hit.