With the holiday season quickly approaching, some down time is sure to follow. You might find yourself looking for a movie (or two, or three) to watch. And if you’re interested in something with a little more bite than usual, do we have a suggestion for you. Four words: Dial Code Santa Claus.
The plot of Dial Code Santa Claus is eerily similar to that of Home Alone, but but one major thing sets these two films apart: Dial Code leans heavily into the horror and pain, rather than leaving it implied. Directed by René Manzor, 36.15 code Père Noël—loosely translated to mean Dial Code Santa Claus—follows Thomas, a young boy who is obsessed with Rambo, computers, toys, and his fluffy dog, J.R. After chatting on the Minitel (a primitive form of the internet) with a guy he thinks is the real Santa Claus, he inadvertently piques the interest of a very seedy character set on robbing Thomas’ home on Christmas Eve. Equipped only with traps and gadgets and his elderly grandfather, Thomas’ life is put in grave peril more than a few times over the course of Christmas Eve.
A newly restored version of the film had its North American premiere at this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, where it received critical acclaim. According to Fantastic Fest’s own Annick Mahnert:
The Minitel, a basic version of the internet, was invented in France in the ‘80s and allowed access to commercial and private addresses, along with chat rooms. The code to access some of these services was ‘3615' and then the name of the company. The Minitel died in 2012, replaced by the internet as we know it, but while it lasted it was an awesome tool. Yet, as always with technology, it can be misused. Manzor had the perfect evil tool and made a brilliant job turning it into a kid’s worst nightmare.
American Genre Film Archive reports that the film, previously only available via VHS bootlegs, has expanded its rollout, with a restored North American Blu-ray on the way. (For international readers, according to Amazon France, the Dial Code Santa Claus Blu-ray and DVD combo pack was released on December 20, 2017, but limited to only 2,000 copies.) The official trailer for AGFA’s restored release is below.