Movie Essay: Cult Christmas

“The French invent things they don’t know what do with,” says director Rene Manzor. He goes on to cite how the Lumiere Brothers invented the camera but it was not until Edison brought it to fruition, did it start to take off. He also mentions how the stedi-cam was a French invention, but also was not popularized until it was utilized on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). These sentiments perfectly fit Dial Code Santa Claus (1989) by Rene Manzor. The reason this sentiment fits is because Dial Code Santa Claus is rumored to be the inspiration for Home Alone (Columbus, 1990).  You may be wondering why you have never heard of this film. Well, the reason for this is the film flopped in France and never got distribution in America until, it was recently put out on Blu-ray by Vinegar Syndrome.

There are plenty of similarities to Home Alone and Dial Code Santa Claus. Rene Manzor even tried to sue over the similarities between the two films.  Both characters have to fight off home invaders; for Kevin this is The Wet Bandits, for Thomas he must fend off a deranged man who is dressed up like Father Christmas. While the accusations of Home Alone ripping this movie off can be seen. I’d like examine the two films in their differences. I feel Dial Code Santa Claus should be viewed on it’s own terms rather then a constant comparison to Home Alone I’d like to contrast the differences rather then the similarities.

Kevin McCallister, Armed and Ready
Thomas, Rambo Ready.

Let us start with Kevin McCallister, who is eight.  Kevin does not know how to pack his own suitcase.  He’s sort of a brat, yet no one questions Buzz as to where the cheese pizza went.  Kevin does get dumped on. Throughout the film Kevin has to learn to grow up. He has to go grocery shopping, do laundry and set traps to battle the home invaders. While Kevin does face danger by the wet bandits, there is a sense that no matter what happens Kevin will be okay.

Let us move onto, Thomas, who is ten years old. He loves video games and action movies. He is seen roaming around the house playing Rambo and setting traps to hunt down his dog J.R. He is the child of a widowed mother who is also a work-alcoholic. Thomas stays up on Christmas Eve hoping to catch glimpse of Father Christmas. When the home invasion begins Thomas’ reaction is not to stand and fight but to flee and run away, it’s is only when the option to runaway is no longer available does Thomas make a stand. Even when he does make a stand he knows he is no match for full grown man and tries to out smart this evil Santa.  In Dial Code Santa Claus there is a bigger sense of vulnerability.  Thomas gets injured, he builds some traps, and some of them do not work, accordingly, heightening the sense of danger and vulnerability.

For Kevin he wants freedom from his family. Only when they are gone does he realize the value of his family. For Thomas living in a fantasy world of video games and action movies enables him to escape reality, but when Santa enters the fantasy confronting Thomas with a nightmare.  The traditional Freudian reading of dreams is we dream to escape reality. It is a this point, one would say, Thomas is escaping into fantasy to avoid reality but I wonder if, in Ziziek fashion, is Thomas strong enough to continue confronting his dreams.

I hope by now I have peaked some interest in seeking out a new Christmas movie, which hopefully becomes a new favorite. Dial Code Santa Claus is a sleek Euro-horror, Christmas film, with touches of dream like cinema-photography. It will give you a break for the typical Christmas movie and hopefully become a new cult classic. It would seem now days that horror themed Christmas movies are getting more attention then ever. While Dial Code Santa Claus missed its launch back in 1989 hopefully now it will shine.

This film is available at vinegarsydrome.com or on Shudder or can be purchased from amazon.

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