Straight up, let me be honest. This movie is crazy. I say that a lot in conversations about movies that defy description. I may exclaim, this movie is insane. It’s bonkers. I may use all manner of words. Let me tell you, when it comes to Christmas movies, nothing will prepare you for this.
Let me short hand it for you — imagine if Home Alone had more terror and blood. Think of the grindhouse version of that film. And then realize that this was made a year before and director René Manzor once threatened the makers of that film with a lawsuit alleging that they had remade his movie.
The difference is that when the Wet Bandits get beat up in Home Alone, the carnage is like a cartoon. Not here. Not at all.
Thomas de Frémont is a smart young kid who is obsessed with inventing things and American action movies like Rambo. He lives in a secluded mansion with his widowed mother Julie, his nearly blind grandfather Papy and his dog J.R. On Christmas Eve, Thomas uses a Minitel ( a French 80’s internet that had access to commercial and private addresses, along with chat rooms) to try and talk to Santa, only to be targeted by a deranged homeless man who breaks into the mansion.
Seriously, this evil Santa is super evil. He gets a job where Julie works, slaps around kids and gets his entry into their home by hiding in a delivery van and killing the driver. He then kills Thomas’ dog in front of his eyes. The young boy thinks that this really is Santa and he is angry that he’s stayed up so late to try and catch him dropping off toys.
The evil Saint Nick cuts off all the phone lines and challenges Thomas to a game of life and death, even catching him once and letting him go. I’m not going to give away more of the movie, but it’s seriously one of the darkest holiday movies I’ve ever witnessed, one that will make kids not want anything in heir stockings.
It’s also shot in an incredibly frenetic style that I’d compare favorably to Michele Soavi. Manzor would go on to be a famous writer, as well as get hired by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to direct some of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.
Also known as Deadly Games and Dial Code Santa Claus, this movie was impossible to find. That said — the awesome folks at American Genre Film Archive have a restored version playing across the country this holiday with a blu ray finally releasing soon. It won’t be out in time for Christmas, but if you’re already reading about it here, you know how to search the grey markets of the internet by now. It’s worth the time.
UPDATE: This is now on Shudder. Go watch it right now!
EVEN BETTER UPDATE: Vinegar Syndrome has released this movie after years of people like me waiting for it. Get it now!