Think ‘Home Alone’ meets ‘Silent Night Deadly Night’ and you’ll have a rough idea what to expect with this French slice of holiday horror from the 80s.
We recently ran a ranked list of a whopping 80 Christmas horror films, and while we endeavored to include every movie that qualified there were a few that we were unable to see in time. One title we were sad to miss was 1989’s 36-15 Code Père Noël (aka Game Over, aka Deadly Games) as the idea of a little French kid fending off a killer Santa Claus sounds too damn appealing. Luckily the lack of an English-friendly version of the film is no longer a problem as German distributor Camera Obscura has recently released a three-disc special edition of the movie to Blu-ray/DVD. Keep reading for a look at this belated Christmas present.
Thomas (Alain Musy) is a bright little boy with a vivid imagination and a love of games. From video games to imagined battles with his dog and grandfather, he’s constantly filling his time while his single mother works long hours as the head of a department store. Their worlds cross when the man she’s chosen as this year’s department Santa Claus (Patrick Floersheim) takes a twisted fancy to young Thomas. He’s fired for an unrelated offense, and, still in costume, heads immediately to the boy’s large home to drop some metaphorical coal into Thomas’ stocking.
He wants to murder the kid is what I’m saying.
With nowhere else to turn, young Thomas turns his house into a battlefield. His only hope of keeping himself and his grandpa alive is to stay one step ahead of the madman, and if it comes to it… he may have to kill Santa Claus.
36-15 Code Père Noël never quite found success outside of Europe — meaning no, it most likely didn’t inspire the following year’s Home Alone — but it’s a fun, attractively-shot thriller that moves easily between the playful and the cruel. Thomas’ belief that this is the real Santa never wavers, and that creates an interesting tension in the boy’s mental state as the situation grows increasingly desperate.
Writer/director René Manzor makes good use of the single location, and the set affords the film all manner of creative shots, angles, and sequences. What’s open and fun early on becomes threatening as Manzor ensures the house shifts with a menacing bent as Santa makes his way through. There are some truly tense moments here including one with poor grandpa whose blurred vision leaves him defenseless against the approaching killer, and as the end gets nearer Manzor ensures this is a very dark Christmas tale indeed.
Young Musy, the director’s son, is fine although he’s outperformed by his glorious mullet — it’s impossible not to love it! Floersheim, though, is the real performance draw as his madman feels very mad. There’s real menace in his eyes, and it’s easy to believe he’s mere seconds away from offing the pre-teen. The film wisely doesn’t spend time exploring his character’s past or motivation, and instead Floersheim is simply allowed to be a mysterious nutter.
Camera Obscura’s new release includes the feature on both Blu-ray and DVD along with a second DVD filled with additional special features. The film itself is from a 2K restoration, and it really captures the music video look and style of the decade with its colors, shadows, and artistic touches coming through clearly and beautifully.
- “Synapses” [5:07] – A short animated film by René Manzor.
- Stills gallery [18:14]
- *NEW* Forbidden Toys [1:25:08] – This feature length making-of is anchored by a new interview with writer/director René Manzor and is peppered with clips, behind-the-scenes photographs, and insight into the production.
- *NEW* To Become a Man [39:10] – Alain Musy Lalanne discusses his career as a child actor and this film’s production in particular.
- Alain Musy: Simon Says “Roll Sound” [8:49] – The child actor is interviewed on-set during the film’s production.
- Storyboard comparison [6:35]
- Bonnie Tyler music video “Merry Christmas” [2:55]
- Pre-trailer model shots [2:41]
Deadly Games walks a fine line between kids movie and killer thriller, and while it wobbles on occasion it remains standing by the time the end credits roll. This is a fun flick and one well worth seeking out before next Christmas.