Holiday horror has been one of my favorite genres of film for as long as I can remember. I read about the protests against Silent Night Deadly Night being screened in theaters back in 1984. Taking a jolly holiday family icon and twisting him into a psychopathic killer didn’t sit well with many. Although it has been a favorite for me featuring Santa killers for many years, let me tell you about a film that rivals it as a top spot in the genre…
Made in 1989 by French writer/director René Manzor, Dial Code Santa Claus (AKA 36.15 code Père Noël, Game Over and Deadly Games) is about a very intelligent young child named Thomas (Alain Lalanne/Alain Mussy: SFX artist for Avatar) who is fascinated with combat films, toy weapons, hi-tech gadgets and security systems and wants to be the first kid ever to finally see Santa Claus.
However, a middle aged man (Patrick Floersheim: Frantic 1988) with a creepy obsession with children decides to rent himself out as Santa to be closer to kids. After he strikes a child in anger while wearing the suit, he loses his job, but overhears a conversation that leads him to the family mansion where Thomas lives.
Dial Code Santa Claus is a subtitled French film that was previously unreleased and could only be found on bootleg VHS tapes… that is, until the recent 2K restoration courtesy of AGFA! Made one year prior to Home Alone, the plots in this film are pretty similar to the 1990 kids’ movie, although Dial Code Santa Claus is much more suspenseful, darker, and of course, bloodier.
I loved everything about this film. The acting from all involved was amazing and at some parts, you actually feel sorry for the psycho. The movie was beautifully shot and kept you constantly wondering who would survive. It starts off looking like somewhat of a comedy as we see Thomas dress up in his toy combat gear, looking like Rambo and playing soldier around the mansion. Just shortly after, however, the film takes a much darker turn and it doesn’t let up.
Dial Code Santa Claus is officially one of my favorite holiday horror films, and I hope that more people get a chance to see this underrated gem now that it’s been restored by AFGA.