Movie Review: ‘Deadly Games’

Director: René Manzor

Cast: Brigette Fossey, Louis Ducreux, Patrick Floersheim, Alain Lalanne, François-Éric Gendron, Stéphane Legros

Plot: A young child is left home alone at the large family house during Christmas. While his mother rushes to get back to him, left home alone, he must contend with an intruder into their home (alone) by utilising home-made traps and weapons.

Review: Ok, yes, there is a very obvious comparison to another beloved Christmas movie produced in the US. But here’s the thing we only recently learnt from Cinefix…this French feature predates Home Alone by a year. It seems to have had a bumpy distribution being original released as 3615 Code Père Noël, but can also be found under the titles Dial Code Santa Claus, Game Over and Hide and Freak. With more recent films like Better Watch Out and Violent Night putting a darker spin on Home Alone moments, it’s strange finding this much more intense outing that pre-dates the ‘original’. The similarities are such that there was even a copyright claim made.

Our home alone tyke is Thomas (Lalanne), something of a child genius who spends his time programming video games, performing mechanical repairs and experimenting with engineering. He’s also a big fan of American action movies of the 80s, and performs Rambo-inspired operations around the family mansion. These early moments are shot with the camera low to the ground and distorts the images to give it a child-like perspective. The time spent getting to know Thomas and his caring family is genuinely heartwarming and fun and sets us up nicely for the more thrilling experience ahead of us.

Thomas has had his faith in Santa shaken by his friend Pilou (Legros), leading him to set up a camera security system through his computer to find his own evidence. His mother Julie (Fossey) runs a department store and has to work Christmas Eve, leaving Thomas and his partially blind and diabetic grandfather at home. It’s all fine until the deranged vagabond dressed as Santa (Floersheim) turns up at the house while on a killing spree, where he’s met with a capable and well equipped Thomas. The two enter into a cat-and-mouse game as Thomas seeks to defend his grandfather and house from the menacing intruder.

This may sound like the basis for some hijinks, but it is a much darker experience. To give you an idea as to what you can expect, ‘Santa’ stabs the pet dog to death shortly after gaining access to the house. Later in the film we get a gentle bit of Christmas music on the soundtrack to accompany a distraught child burying his dead dog before gearing up to battle a psychotic, grown man. These two are both out for blood, and the damage down is quite bloody. When we do start to get an idea of ‘Santa’s’ motivation and intent it laves things feeling much more unpredictable and unsettling. You never stop backing Thomas though, because he pushes through the situation relying on his wits and bravery to succeed. He also has all that great 1980s tech, and the 8 year old me is very jealous.

By the third act, things are falling into the usual pattern of slasher movies from this era leaving it to stumble with a sudden finale. This may not appeal to those unwilling to watch an older movie with subtitles, but for those who want a darker, more thrilling and more dangerous take on the Home Alone concept than this is unmissable.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN