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I try to watch “Home Alone” around this time every year, and one of the thoughts that often pops into my head is that this plot would make a great horror movie. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Rene’ Manzor’s “Deadly Games” on Shudder, and even more surprised when I discovered it came out a year before “Home Alone!”

Manzor’s 1989 film has been known by many names, including “Dial Code Santa Claus,” “Game Over,” “Hide and Freak,” and “Deadly Games.” It stars Thomas (Alain Musy), a 10-year-old genius who programs computers, builds gadgets, dresses like Rambo, sports an awesome mullet and believes in Santa Claus. Thomas’ mother owns a chain of toy stores, so he has all the toys a kid could ever want, and he lives in a mansion full of high-tech gadgets.

"Deadly Games" is like "Home Alone," but horror
Deal / Garance / L.M. Productions

Using Minitel, an internet precursor, Thomas thinks he’s telling Santa what he wants for Christmas. However, a psycho (Patrick Floersheim) uses a public terminal to pose as Santa and find out more about Thomas. He steals a Santa costume, paints his beard white, and stows away in a delivery truck bound for Tommy’s home. The intruder leaves bodies in his wake before breaking into Thomas’ house — coming in through the chimney, of course.

His mother is working on Christmas Eve, and Thomas is home taking care of his elderly grandfather. He’s determined to prove that Santa is real, so he’s rigged his mansion with surveillance cameras and staked out a spot. When the deranged Santa shows up, a thrilling cat and mouse chase ensues. However, Thomas is hardly helpless. He uses his security cameras and an array of booby traps to keep the madman at bay.

Tommy in "Deadly Games," dressed like Rambo
Deal / Garance / L.M. Productions

Whereas the “Home Alone” films lean heavier on the humor and feature cartoonish violence, “Deadly Games” is grisly in a grindhouse vein. It also has a lot of heart, and I really enjoyed seeing Tommy protect his diabetic, partially blind grandfather.

There are some truly beautiful shots here. My favorite is of Floersheim in his Santa suit standing in the snow with an eerie light behind him. It’s magical, even with the bloody knife in his hand.

“Deadly Games” is destined to be a Christmas classic. I’m just so glad this previously forgotten gem is now available to a wider audience. It was only available by bootleg VHS until 2018, when the American Genre Film Archive restored it. The film made it’s North American premier at last year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin. It’s now available on Blu-Ray and it’s currently streaming on Shudder.

If you’re looking for a new movie to add to your Christmas season watch list, I can’t recommend this one enough. Check out the restored trailer below:

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Deadly Games
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Mike watched "Night of the Living Dead" on PBS when he was a little kid, and he thought it was a documentary. He's been hooked on horror ever since. By day, Mike is a UX writer. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and their golden retriever.