Movie Review: DIAL CODE SANTA CLAUS (1989)

I’ve joked several times about my sole reasoning for wanting a child is simply because it’d be the only opportunity I’d be granted to force a mullet on someone. This may sound terrible, but it is true and I accept it. Anyway, upon watching DIAL CODE SANTA CLAUS my peculiar idealization of my future child was brought to fruition right before my very eyes.

Forgive my inclination to kick this off by mentioning something so secondary to everything else in this incredible film I am absolutely amazed exists. Kicking off with likely the most bizarre Rocky homage I’ve seen to date, we’re introduced to our leading action hero – A young, extremely intelligent boy (with the rockin’ mullet I mentioned previously) by the name of Thomas. Pre-dating Home Alone by an entire year, this french horror-thriller shares a very similar plot – A child creatively cultivating deadly traps in efforts to protect himself in the midst of a home invasion. Only imagine that the home invader is an unhinged department store Santa, and the child is an action movie obsessed warrior with the spiritual blood of John J. Rambo coursing through his veins.

I am truly devastated that this film has fallen under the radar for so long. Combining the best of both ’80s horror and action cinema, it feels very much like an amalgamation of First Blood and Silent Night, Deadly Night. Saying I’m at a loss for words is totally cliche, but true in this case. Every cinematic box was checked for me – The visuals were not skimped on in the slightest, the labyrinthine feeling of the surrealistic mansion was awe-inspiring, and I deeply cared for the characters which caused me to completely invest my undivided attention.

If it wasn’t for how utterly horrifying this demented Santa impostor truly is, I’d be quick to draw a comparison to staples of my youth, namely The Goonies and Gremlins. In the same vein, it also could be viewed as a cautionary tale about the dangers of chatting with strangers online – An issue more prominent now than ever.

I’d never thought I’d discover a film that would become a favorite through a publication I write for, but such was the case here. And though it has unfortunately been widely inaccessible in the nearly 30 years since its release, I cannot help but feel this was intended to be a gift for us all to enjoy this holiday season. So, thank you, Movie Gods, for finally gracing me with the holiday horror I never knew I needed. I can no longer imagine celebrating this joyous time of year in its absence.

Alamo Drafthouse is proud to make DIAL CODE SANTA CLAUS available through the non-profit American Genre Film Archive. Upcoming screenings include the following locations:

12/21 (Alamo Drafthouse – Raleigh, NC)
12/22 (Suns Cinema – Washington, D.C.)
12/23 (Frida Cinema – Santa Ana, CA)
12/24 (Alamo Drafthouse Ritz – Austin)
1/9 (Winnipeg Film Group – Winnipeg)
1/19 (Jacob Burns Film Center – Pleasantville, NY)

Breanna Whipple
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