Christmas films are often associated with warmth, family, togetherness and a general infusion of the joys of the festive season, not horror. However, there are a number of horror films set at the festive season, a time when you would least expect the evils of the world to be on display. Therefore, this year the Alternative Christmas Film Advent Calendar, inspired by last year’s selection of Anna And The Apocalypse, takes aim at Christmas horror films.
This year’s calendar begins with a film that covers one of the scariest elements of Christmas, intruders. Every year people celebrate a complete stranger who breaks into your house in the middle of the night, this figure more commonly known as Santa Claus. It’s this route that home invasion action-horror Dial Code Santa Claus (sometimes called Deadly Games, Game Over or 3615 Code Père Noël) travels along.
Eight year old Thomas (Alain Musy) is labelled as a child genius. However, he seems to be the only person he knows who still believes in Santa Claus. After finding a way to message Santa Thomas is certain that on Christmas Eve he’ll have proof that Santa is real. However, it turns out that the person that he messages is a lonely man (Patrick Floersheim), turned away from by people in the streets and seemingly craving attention. When the stranger, dressed in bright red Santa costume, although looking more like he’s prepared for rainy weather, with his hair spray-painted to look like fake snow, arrives at the expansive mansion that Thomas and his family reside in his intentions are revealed to be far more murderous than they initially seemed.
Soon there’s a battle for survival, with his Mum (Brigitte Fossey) out of the home, as Thomas is left to use his Arnie-style skills and weapons – brought about by a convenient love for action films – to fend for him and his frail grandpa (Louis Ducreux). Yet, with all the twists and turns of the expansive house, and its steep, snow-covered roofs, there are little places to hide and stay safe within. The hooded anti-Santa finds ways to catch up with the pair, continuously battling up close with them and ending up in Home Alone style fights – if Home Alone was made in the style of Commando; director René Manzor threatened legal action against the actual Home Alone, released the year after this film, for plagiarism. As blood begins to be shed and the deadly figure behind this home invasion causes a separation between the only other two people on the grounds of the building and puts them at various, potentially deadly, disadvantages.
While it might not feature conventional Christmas film styles and themes Christmas is still featured rather heavily throughout the film – not just because the antagonist is a man in a Santa costume. The film watches Thomas as his faith and belief in the magic of Christmas – briefly discussed by his Mum while she’s at work during the gradual build-up of the film’s ideas – quickly fades away. Once Santa strikes for the first time there’s no going back, his idealised image of the festive season is destroyed. Instead of being given gifts he has things taken away from him.
However, there’s an emphasis on his relationship with his grandfather. Their bond is a key focus throughout the film, time is certainly taken to cement it over the first half hour or so. Thomas does his best to ensure that they both survive, putting his grandparent in safety before himself, hiding him before coming up with plans on how to defeat the murderous intruder. Is this a film about family? Not completely, however the relationship between the two is certainly a key feature of the piece that truly captures what’s at stake – the fact that film is set on Christmas Eve pushing this idea even more.
There’s a lot that goes on within Dial Code Santa Claus, and certainly enough to make it an enjoyable little action film with some slightly fun moments above anything else. Although there are certainly still a number of horror ideas there, especially within the slasher style and the threat that’s faced by Thomas throughout. This may cause him to have a shattered view of not just Santa but Christmas as a whole, but when looking at this in the real world it potentially makes us more thankful that we at least allow a nice guy to break into our homes once a year.
Dial Code Santa Claus can be viewed in the following places:
Or you may have a physical copy of the film, perhaps on DVD. It might be able to stream, rent or buy on other platforms depending on where you are in the world, it’s always good to check JustWatch just in case.