12 days of holiday horror: take Deadly Games/Dial Code Santa for a spin

Photo: Deadly Games.. Image Courtesy Shudder
Photo: Deadly Games.. Image Courtesy Shudder /

Today’s holiday horror pick may be the right movie for you if you saw Violent Night, and thought to yourself: “You know, this would be a great movie if Santa were the bad guy, and the kid was the bad @$$!”

Deadly Games (also known as Dial Code Santa, 3615 code Pere Noel and Hide and Freak) is a French film that was originally released in 1989. I had never even heard of this holiday horror flick until it came to Shudder, and it’s now one of my favorites.

Although it’s much darker than 1990’s Home Alone, apparently writer/director Rene Manzor threatened legal action against Home Alone’s filmmakers, claiming that they had plagiarized his story. While it does have some similarities, I don’t personally think Manzor could have won such a legal battle. Home Alone played mainly for comedy, and Deadly Games is much…well, deadlier.

Thomas is a child prodigy who adores action movies, his dog J.R. and anything high tech. He’s a child of privilege who lives with his Mom Julie and his grandfather “Papy.” Thomas uses a videotext online service (Minitel) to call Santa, only to have his call answered by a mentally unbalanced homeless man dressed as Santa, who manages to persuade Thomas to give him his address. He also discovers that Thomas’s mother is very wealthy.

Holiday horror meets home invasion

What follows is a holiday horror home invasion story, with the deranged Santa killing several members of Julie’s staff, and Thomas fighting back with a series of clever booby traps and weapons. With Julie at work, it’s just Papy and Thomas, and the boy knows that he must protect his feeble grandfather.

holiday horror
Photo: Deadly Games.. Image Courtesy Shudder /

*This paragraph contains a slight spoiler, so you may want to skip it if you haven’t seen Deadly Games yet and want to be surprised.* I know a lot of horror fans don’t like animal deaths, so I will warn you that J.R. is stabbed to death by the evil Santa. It’s quick though, and it’s important, since it makes us lose any sympathy we may have had for the man, and causes us to root for Thomas all the more.

It’s impossible not to like Thomas (even though he is a bit bratty at times), he is so super-intelligent, and yet maintains a childish belief in Santa Claus. Plus, he totally leans into the action hero persona, despite his small size. This killer Santa is intense, he has no issue murdering people, and we know he is perfectly capable of murdering Thomas and Papy. The family relationships are sweet, just what holiday films of any genre need.

You can watch Deadly Games on Shudder, and I recommend you do so before the holiday season ends.

Next. 12 days of holiday horror: The horror of Gremlins. dark

What do you think of Deadly Games? Do you believe it deserves a spot on our 12 days of holiday horror list? Give us your mini review in the comments section.