• Deadly Games (Vinegar Syndrome) 4k UHD / Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: October 27th, 2020.
    Director: René Manzor
    Cast: Brigitte Fossey, Louis Ducreux, Patrick Floersheim, Alain Lalanne
    Year: 1989
    Purchase From Amazon

    Deadly Games – Movie Review:

    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, Dial Code Santa Claus 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.

    Deadly Games – 4k UHD Review:

    Deadly Games arrives on UHD from Vinegar Syndrome on a 66GB disc in a 4k transfer of the original 35mm negative framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p with HDR and Dolby Vision enhancement. This improves on the previous Blu-ray release (which already looked very good) with noticeably stronger clarity and better color reproduction. The blues in particular really look strong here, but all the colors in general get a nice boost, as do the black levels. This is a fairly grainy film and some scenes are intentionally shot soft, so during those moments detail will fade a bit, but this is clearly intentional on the part of the filmmakers and not a problem with the presentation. The picture is consistently filmic in appearance, showing no traces at all of any noticeable edge enhancement or noise reduction, and compression artifacts are never an issue.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track, in the film’s original French language, is also excellent. There’s solid depth and clarity noticeable throughout the score sounds lively and appropriately intense, as do the sound effects. Dialogue is always clear and the track is nicely balanced from start to finish. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    As far as extras go, there’s a lot (they’re carried over from the Camera Obscura release), but they are all included on the second disc in the set, which is a 50GB Blu-ray disc that also contains a 1080p version of the feature with an identical French DTS-HD 2.0 track on it.

    First up is Jouets Interdits, an eighty-eight 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.

    Alain Lalanne (credited in the film as Alain Musey) is interviewed in a forty-minute featurette entitled To Become A Man. Here 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 entitled ‘Simon Says Roll Sound’ which was 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, production designer Eric Moulard, director Rene Manzor and producer Franics Lalannealso appear here and chime in with their thoughts on the movie. There’s some good behind the scenes material in here and it’s surprising to see a young Lalanne be as perceptive as he is about his character.

    Synapse is 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.

    But wait, there’s more! Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Merry Christmas,’ music video is here along with a storyboard to scene comparison and two minutes of ‘pre-trailer model shots’ that show off the castle model that is used in many of the film’s exterior shots. Also included 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 teasers and two television spots.

    We also get some nice reversible cover sleeve art. The first 5,000 units purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome get a very nice limited edition, matte finish slip cover (designed by Tom Hodge) with some cool spot varnish embossment on all four sides, which is a nice touch.

    Deadly Games – 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. Vinegar Syndrome has done a really nice job bringing this to UHD and Blu-ray, carrying over all the extras from the German Blu-ray release and presenting the film in an excellent 4k presentation. A very strong release for a wickedly entertaining horror picture.

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