• Deadly Games

    Released by: Camera Obscura
    Released on: December 8th, 2017.
    Director: René Manzor
    Cast: Brigitte Fossey, Louis Ducreux, Patrick Floersheim, Alain Lalanne
    Year: 1989
    Purchase From Diabolik DVD

    The Movie:

    Thomas (Alain Lalanne as Alain Musy) is a weird kid. He lives in a massive castle with his aged grandfather (Louis Ducreux) and his hardworking, business minded mother Julie (Brigitte Fossey). His father passed away some time ago but Julie make sure that he has everything he could possible want, at least as far as material possessions are concerned. Seriously, he’s got a game room with a pool table, arcade machines and a pinball machine in it, he’s got a computer and he’s got more toys than you could count. Thomas’ real passion though? War. He’s a pint sized Rambo who runs around the house playing war games with his dog.

    When Julie fires a Santa (Patrick Floersheim) that she hired to work at one of the stores she owns after he slaps a little girl, this Father Christmas doesn’t take kindly to the news. Rather than hand in his costume at the office he instead sneaks into the truck that he knows will be delivering Thomas’ gifts while his mother is at work. From there, he makes his way into the house with the intention of killing the poor kid, but Thomas, being the kind of kid that he is, well he’s about as prepared as he can get. As the night goes on, things become increasingly dangerous for all involved…

    A movie that somehow manages to be both incredibly dark and charmingly whimsical at the same time, Deadly Games (also known as Game Over and 3615 code Père Noël) takes a good half hour to really get going. Yes, that first half hour does help us to get to know Thomas and his grandfather a bit and that helps to build character, but it’s a little slow. Once that evil Santa slaps that little girl, however, all bets are off and the home invasion action soon kicks into high gear.

    The performances are generally very good. Louis Ducreux and Brigitte Fossey are just fine in their supporting parts. Ducreux in particular is very likeable and he plays the stereotype of the somewhat daffy but genuinely kind old man very well. Fossey is good as the business minded mom who feels responsible for what happened. We feel and understand her concern once it all hits the fan. Of course, the real stars of the show are young Alain Musy and Patrick Floersheim. Musy is a lot of fun to watch here. At first, he comes across as a bit annoying, just too lost in his never-ending war game to be likeable, but that changes as the story unfolds and by the time it’s all over you’ve got to appreciate the kid’s ingenuity, determination and bravery. Musy plays this part well, with a nice mix of gritty determination and wide-eyed wonderment. Floersheim is great in his part. He’s creepy from the first time we see him, trying to get in on a children’s snowball game and being soundly rejected for not being ‘part of the gang.’ We feel sorry for him at first, but that soon changes. Once he’s made his way into the family home, he’s all menace.

    It’s hard not to see the film and think of Home Alone (though this film was made first), the similarities are definitely there, but Deadly Games differentiates itself by adding an element of the fantastic to the movie that works in its favor. Case in point? The castle that Thomas calls home is made as a miniature, one that director René Manzor doesn’t’ even try to pass off as real. The interiors show off the scale of the house in interesting ways, letting us get a look at the different rooms that make up Thomas’ play area – but it all feels wonderfully artificial, as if all of this is the product of a child’s overactive imagination. A great sense of style helps reel this in, the movie is very nicely shot and makes great use of some unusual camera angels to help build unease and tension as the story plays out. A scene where Thomas and Santa Claus go back and forth using a wind-up toy train is a great example – it starts with Thomas, and then his foe sends it right back to him, and all we can do is watch and wonder just what exactly is going to happen.


    Camera Obscura works their magic on Deadly Games by bringing it to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. The movie has plenty of breathing room and is offered a very high bit rate. As such, there are no compression artifacts, nor are there any noticeable issues with any edge enhancement or noise reduction. Fine detail is strong throughout and the natural, film-like appearance is highlighted by the expected amount of film grain, but no real print damage. The transfer is remarkably clean and boasts strong black levels and excellent color detail.

    French and German language tracks are offered up in LPCM 2.0 Stereo with removable subtitles provided in German and in English. For review purposes we watched the film with the French track on, as that’s the language that it was shot in. No problems here at all, the audio is clean, clear and properly balanced. Both the score and the effects sound nice with good range and presence and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion.

    Extras on the first disc start off with a five-minute short film directed by Manzor, it’s a strange piece that, like the feature, ties into some interesting fantastical elements. It’s an animated piece, not live action, and at times it borders on the surreal, but it’s definitely as interesting as it is creative.

    Also included on the first disc is an eighteen minute long still gallery with commentary from Manzor over top in which he talks about the making of the film, the sets and models used in the film, the cast and more. Rounding out the first disc are three trailers for the feature, a pair of teasers and two television spots.

    The second disc in the set is a DVD version of the Blu-ray disc, simply offering a standard definition presentation with identical supplements. On the third disc (also a DVD), however, there’s quite a bit more supplemental material beginning with Jouets Interdits, an eighty-five minute long documentary that features some in-depth interviews with Manzor who speaks to the state of French cinema when this picture was made, his affiliation with Alain Delon, more on those miniatures that play a big part in creating the movie’s strange atmosphere, the effects, the cast and loads more. This is very well put together and sheds some welcome light on the history of this obscure and under-appreciated picture.

    Moving right along, up next is a thirty-nine-minute-long interview with Alain Lalanne (credited in the film as Alain Musey) entitled To Become A Man. He speaks at length about his work on the film, how he got along with his fellow cast members, the themes that the film plays with including how it essentially sets up his young character to go to war, his thoughts on Manzar and the film itself and quite a bit more. Lalanne is interviewed again in a nine minute vintage piece shot when he was obviously much younger. It’s not nearly as in-depth but it’s interesting to see it included here. Actor Patrick Floersheim and production designer Eric Moulard also appear here and chime in with their thoughts on the movie.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a music video for Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Merry Christmas,’ a storyboard to scene comparison, two minutes of ‘pre-trailer model shots’ that show off the castle model that is used in many of the film’s exterior shots.

    The Final Word:

    Deadly Games takes a little bit of time to get going but once you get past that first half hour, this is really entertaining stuff –tense, weird and occasionally darkly comedic, it’s quite worthwhile thanks to some quirky and clever direction, strong performances, great set design and a few memorable set pieces. Camera Obscura has rolled out the red carpet for this release, presenting it in excellent shape in a three disc combo pack that is loaded with extras. A very strong release for a wickedly entertaining horror picture.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!