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Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013

I AM A STUPIDLY SEXY WOLFMAN



Grimey Drawer

3615 Code Père Noël
released in France in 1989
written & directed by René Manzor
edited by Christine Pansu
cinematography by Michael Gaffier
music by Jean-Félix Lalanne

also known as Dial Code Santa Claus, Deadly Games, Game Over, and Hide and Freak



Thomas is precocious child, so obsessed with cinematic American military iconography, he ties his mullet with a band of red cloth like Stallone's Rambo, and wears on his chest an ammo belt of nerf darts, fake grenades, handcuffs, walkie-talkie and a plethora of other gadgets. He lives with his mother, Julie, his grandfather, Papy, and the family dog JR. Papy is diabetic, partially blind, and almost bed-ridden, but still acts as Thomas's daily babysitter and playmate, giving him reconnaissance missions to fuel his adventurous spirit. The family lives together in a large house, secluded from the town, full of high-tech conveniences.

A derelict wanders the snowy streets of the town. There is something disturbing in the way he watches the local children playing in the snow.

Thomas's mother Julie is the manager in the local department store Printemps. It is the holiday season. The days count down to Christmas. The pressures of work keep Julie stuck at her job.

The derelict is hired by Printemps to play Santa. A child accuses him of being a fake Santa. A gleam of hatred fills his eyes, and he slaps the child for disgracing him. Julie witnesses the assault and fires him immediately, but not before stealing the Santa costume.

Thomas, excited for Christmas, logs onto a chatroom that lets him talk to Santa Claus. The message is intercepted by the derelict from a public terminal, who plays along with Thomas's fantasy. Thomas personally invites Santa to his house on Christmas Eve while Julie is away. So begins a deadly stand-off on Christmas Eve between a Santa with murderous intent and Thomas, protecting himself and JR and Papy, while Julie is stuck at work, unaware of the dire circumstances her family is in.





Dial Code Santa Claus (which is the name we will be using for this thread out of simplicity) came and went in the 1990 without much fanfare. It was well-received at Fantafestival in Rome, even winning Best Film and Best Director, but it never made much of a cultural splash beyond that. Murderous Santas and a slasher-esque treatment of a holiday story weren't wholly unique when the film was released, but pitting an innocent (albeit clever and resourceful) child against a psychotic killer dressed as Santa gives the film a stronger identity. The premise of a child using technology and booby traps to fend off a dangerous home invasion during the holidays would be popularized a year later, in America, by John Hughes and Chris Columbus. The similarities were strong enough that Manzor claimed plagiarism and threatened legal actions against the film. I don't know much about where that process eventually landed; it seems like the claims were dead in the water. Home Alone is permanently in the cultural holiday zeitgeist; Dial Code Santa Claus is a novelty in comparison.

Thankfully, the American Genre Film Archive restored the film, where it premiered for the first time at Fantastic Fest in 2018 in Austin, Texas, giving it a new lease on life. Since then, it has become readily available on Shudder, where it has gained more popularity, and is now a 4K UHD release by VinegarSyndrome.



What separates Dial Code Santa Claus from Home Alone, as well as other Christmas horror films, is how it is both grounded emotionally in Thomas's loss of innocence on Christmas Eve and yet fantastic in it's adventurous, playful spirit, fueled seemingly by the wishes of a child with Thomas's temperament. The true horror at the heart of this film is Thomas's belief in Santa being ruined; Thomas hides as Santa enters his house, smiling in excitement, only to realize that Santa has instead brought the threat of death and pain. Thomas doesn't realize that Santa isn't real and that this murderer in his house is real. He believes that he has done something wrong enough to deserve punishment at the hands of Santa. It is his natural fight/flight sense and self-preservation that makes him fight for survival. Putting yourself in Thomas's perspective reveals a disturbing truth to having a childhood fantasy replaced by a grim reality. Thomas not only fights for himself, but he also fights to save Papy, who is so vulnerable to harm, every scene where the old man is threatened puts the audience on edge. And yet this is juxtaposed with gadgets and traps that would make Kevin McCallister salivate, and a journey through trap-doors and secret passages through the house that feels more like Goonies, Clue and other Spielbergian adventure films. It's tonally similar to Gremlins, if you were to remove Dante's goofy sense of humor. (Worth noting, director Manzor helmed a few episodes of Young Indiana Jones.)

What's also surprising is the level of quality the film brings to the table. Thomas's goofy look is disarming, and might make you assume that the film will be full of camp. The performance of Patrick Floersheim as the villain, from when he is introduced to the final moments, dissuades any facetious enjoyment from the film. It's quite remarkable. The editing, set-design, cinematography all look great. It's surprising, and maybe disappointing, that so many people attached to this film did not continue to have many credits to their name.

I'm excited to have this film as a Movie of the Month. I watched it twice last year for Christmas, once alone, and then with a group of friends. It's such a tense crowd-pleaser, and I hope to spread it's fun, stylish macabre spirit even further.


It is still currently streaming on Shudder
You can grab the 4k restoration from VinegarSyndrome through the normal avenues, as well.

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MacheteZombie
Feb 4, 2007





nice! plan to watch this pretty soon. I picked up the VinSyn release.

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013

I AM A STUPIDLY SEXY WOLFMAN



Grimey Drawer

MacheteZombie posted:

nice! plan to watch this pretty soon. I picked up the VinSyn release.

That’s how I’ll be rewatching it! I’m excited.

gey muckle mowser
Aug 5, 2003

Do you know anything about...
witches?





Buglord

Hell yeah. I watched this for the first time last year, it owns. I ordered it from VS and will rewatch it for this thread whenever it arrives!

Iron Crowned
May 6, 2003


The VinSyn 4k looks fantastic, but it was also my first watch, so I don't have anything to

Franchescanado posted:

also known as Dial Code Santa Claus, Deadly Games, Game Over, and Hide and Freak

Per the English trailer included on the disc "Wanted: Mr. X-Mas" is also one of the alternate titles.

Hollismason
Jun 30, 2007

"Real life is messy, inconsistent, and it's seldom when anything ever really gets resolved."



I've been preaching the praises of this film for a full two years. It easily goes on my favorite Christmas horror movie list. Just a amazing film.

The Berzerker
Feb 24, 2006

treat me like a dog




Never heard of it but it's on Canadian Shudder so I'll watch it and join the fun.

Franchescanado
Feb 23, 2013

I AM A STUPIDLY SEXY WOLFMAN



Grimey Drawer

Hollismason posted:

I've been preaching the praises of this film for a full two years. It easily goes on my favorite Christmas horror movie list. Just a amazing film.

I'm pretty sure I watched it on your recommendation, Hollis!

Debbie Does Dagon
Jul 8, 2005





If anyone would like to watch the film in a friendly place full of wonderful people, I'll be streaming it on Sunday

Debbie Does Dagon posted:

Sunday Chill Stream - Friendship is Magic
Only on the CineD Discord



Each film in this stream has been selected by our much-beloved Forums/Discord regulars, as something they love and cherish, and would like to share with everyone

All times in EST and may not reflect reality

0900 Mata Hari (1931)
1045 Ms. 45 (1981)
1215 Slither (2006)
1400 Why Don't You Play in Hell? (2013)
1620 The Fountain (2006)
1805 Lady Bird (2017)
1945 Dial Code Santa Claus (1989)
2125 Amer (2009)
2305 Daniel Isn't Real (2019)
0055 It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

MacheteZombie
Feb 4, 2007





Watched this last night and had a great time!

The kid was great and the Santa was very creepy. I was impressed by how well it's shot too.

Debbie Does Dagon
Jul 8, 2005





I think the most interesting things about the film is the character arc of Thomas. He begins with a fantasy of a Rambo-style murder spree, and by the end is completely torn asunder mentally by tragedy and violence, and it's not shied away from at all despite that constant almost-whimsical tone. I really got the impression by the end of the film that Thomas was going to have a Michael Myers-style trajectory after the credits closed, and would one day return to bring terror to innocent Mall Santas everywhere.

Iron Crowned
May 6, 2003


I did find the final scene to be fairly chilling TBH.

The Berzerker
Feb 24, 2006

treat me like a dog




Patrick Floersheim was so menacing in this, I loved it.

mrfart
May 26, 2004

Dear diary, today I
became a captain.


I like how this all starts on a minitel chat. Probably the most French piece of electronics ever made.

Enjoyed the movie.

Lurdiak
Feb 25, 2006

I believe in a universe that doesn't care, and people that do.




Friendly reminder that I'll be streaming this as part of the X-mas Scream Stream on Wednesday.

Lurdiak posted:

Sorry to get some Christmas in your Halloween, but...



Merry Deathmas, boils and ghouls! This December 23rd, starting at 6 PM grab a cup of hot jones and some gingerbread cookies and join us for a night of holiday chills and spills! We'll be watching a series of jolly holly horror films as well as assorted Christmas nonsense! What kind of nonsense? You'll just have to tune in to find out! We will be watching:



Gremlins



Dial Code Santa Claus



Krampus



Silent Night, Deadly Night 2

I hope you can find time to gather round the yuletide log with us at the official Scream Stream cytube channel (remember to install the extension), and don't forget to join us in the official horror thread Discord!

STAC Goat
Mar 12, 2008

Watching you sleep.

Butt first, let's
check the feeds.



I forgot to say anything about this one.

The big thing that struck me about the film was what I thought was a blur between the horrific reality of the situation and the boy's childlike fantasy of it. That didn't fully hit me until the last act when he makes the bomb and it doesn't work... because of course a kid couldn't just throw together a bomb. That seemed so clear after it happened but I really kind of believed up until that point. And once that happens it made me look back on the whole film and wonder how long it had been fooling me with the kid's perspective. The opening scene of the kid having an action movie obstacle course, his toy dungeon through a secret passage, weird passages of time or the geography of the house. Even the idea of hiding his grandpa in the suit of armor. It all felt really absurd to me when it was happening but then when that moment happens it immediately made me question if any of that had actually happened the way we saw it or if it was a kid's imagination and fantasies.

Its not a film I really see myself watching again, especially at Christmas. The use of the kid's fantasies to juxtapose the horrific and traumatizing reality of the situation is very well done and unique but also way too raw and dark for something i really want to experience often. But its really impressively well executed and does what it sets out to do, and weeks later I still can't really think of a movie that does something similar. Although admittedly my index of home invasion kid films is small.

I also totally get the Home Alone thing but I think they're such dramatically different films that have such dramatically different agendas that I can't use a term like "knock off" or "copy" or "plagiarism." Its two totally different spins on the same one sentence plot pitch so I think both can be appreciated for what they are.

Schwarzwald
Jul 27, 2004

Don't Blink


I caught this in Lurdiak's stream last night. It's a much bleaker film than I expected, and the dead dog especially means I won't be showing this to family.

Echoing STAC Goat's thoughts, there's something quite dreamlike about the film. The setting is this weird rich person hell castle, complete with weird traps, contraptions, and secret passages. The editing makes things feel very disconnected. There will be a scene where the kid escapes from Santa using some device, and then hard cut to them being at opposite ends of the house. It gives the film a very loose sense of continuity.

The bad Santa himself seems to be the worst fears of the child and his mother. For the child, that his mother would invite in a paternal figure who'd threaten his inheritance and his grandfather's health (see also: Mom's assistant). For the mother, that her business as not just a working mother but a capitalist would not only keep her from protecting her family but outright endanger them.

Santa vacillates between being terrifying, ineffectual, murderous and harmless. Is he just a destitute, mentally ill old man, or a calculating killer with a grudge? It seems like he's both, and it makes him less like a real person so much as a phantom. He's the ultimate enemy of the castle doctrine fantasy, and appropriate to that fantasy he's only finally dispelled when the man of the house fires a gun.

Schwarzwald fucked around with this message at 21:39 on Dec 24, 2020

King of Bleh
Mar 2, 2007

A kingdom of rats.


Watched this tonight with my dad and 18yo sister. She has more.. modern sensibilities and pretty quickly wrote it off as "stupid", but I found it to be a flawed but charming little curiosity.

Probably not going to be a Christmas staple for me, on account of the dog death and the pacing of it, but there's such a dearth of Christmas horror that it's always nice to discover something new.

Lurdiak
Feb 25, 2006

I believe in a universe that doesn't care, and people that do.




The dog getting killed with that cake knife by Santa while a little kid watches is the greatest thing I've ever seen.

King Vidiot
Feb 17, 2007

The video arcade made me what I am today!



The dog dying really raises the stakes right out of the gate. It's clear that the killer Santa is deranged, he's confirmed to have killed at least one person before he shows up in Thomas's house, but as soon as he kills the dog all bets are off. The viewer isn't sure from that moment on how far the movie will go or how many more will die, and it doesn't let up until the conclusion.

I appreciate how the movie is both tense and terrifying but never shows too much. We see some aftermath but never any on-screen violence, and all the main characters survive. The dog's death is shocking and sad, but otherwise you could show this to older kids without much of a problem. It's a shame this movie never got the audience it deserved during its initial release.

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gey muckle mowser
Aug 5, 2003

Do you know anything about...
witches?





Buglord

Got this in the mail the other day and gave it a re-watch. It's still good but I think I may have enjoyed it a little less this time, possibly because it's sometimes mean-spirited and I'm not really in the mood for that right now. It's not just the dog thing, it's more that it sets things up like it's going to be over the top and kinda silly but then has it's protagonist go through some actually traumatizing stuff.

Still a good movie overall though, and I'm sure I'll revisit it every couple years like I do every Christmas horror movie.

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