The Advent Calendar (2021)

by - December 3rd, 2021 - Movie Reviews


Chilling Advent Calendar a Yuletide Countdown to Terror

After Eva (Eugénie Derouand) is given an antique advent calendar for her birthday by her best friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier), strange things begin to happen in the former dancer’s life that she cannot explain. A paraplegic courtesy of a horrific car accident three years prior, it seems as if with each opening of the calendar’s daily doors this German oddity is intent on making substantial changes to the young woman’s life.

The Advent Calendar (2021) | PHOTO: Shudder

But there are rules. If you open the first door, all doors from that point forward until Christmas have to be opened. If you eat a candy, all subsequent candies must also be consumed. You cannot refuse a task. Most of all, you cannot throw the advent calendar away. The consequences of breaking any of these rules? The spirit residing within the handcrafted artifact will kill you, it’s as simple as that.

The stakes get raised very quickly in The Advent Calendar, a lovingly deranged Christmas-themed horror morality tale where achieving the impossible comes with a brutal and gory price tag. It soon becomes obvious to Eva that the calendar is intent on helping her turn her frown upside down, mainly by returning the use of her legs, while at the same time also allowing her to fall into the lovingly tender arms of a charismatic nurse.

Of course, the cost for all of this comes in the form of lives, writer/director Patrick Ridremont sending his heroine into a surrealistic Twilight Zone scenario where fantasy and reality forcefully collide. This leaves Eva wondering if what is all happening to her is some deranged nightmare, a test to see just what she would do to regain the use of her legs. It’s another variation on the classic Richard Matheson short story Button, Button, only with an otherworldly demonic twist that’s straight out of Hellraiser.

Ridremont doesn’t spend a ton of time building out the core mythology behind the calendar, but he does allow for a couple of solid clues revealing its mechanics and where things will lead if Eva continues to open each door, eat the candies and follow all of the increasingly violent tasks. It’s obvious that not all is as it seems, all of which makes the climactic – if purposefully ephemeral – twist have less emotional resonance than I hoped it was going to exhibit.

But relative newcomer is Derouand is very good, delivering a playfully multifaceted performance I was instantly drawn to. She does a good job of balancing Eva’s emotions, the character’s budding excitement tinged with a growing sense of fearful panic as she grapples with what she is going to be forced to do to have her injuries healed. Derouand gets to be her own angel and her own devil metaphorically spitting out conflicting dollops of advice, and I liked how deftly she was able to shift through these interior gears from one moment to the next.

The Advent Calendar (2021) | PHOTO: Shudder

There are bits I didn’t care for, most notably the way a key character is utilized and then dispatched. But I can’t go into that turn of events without diving into some major spoilers, so forgive me if I’m a little vague. However, even though this moment of tragedy does clue Eva into the calendar’s full power and finally introduces the demonic force driving things in a decidedly literal way, it also hit me as something of a cheat. This death didn’t register, and considering the importance of this character on the overall plot that’s no small thing.

Thankfully, the final 20 minutes or so are pretty dang terrific. There’s a lovely stretch where Eva realizes who the next victim is going to be and attempts to plead under her breath for them to be spared. An even better one happens not too long afterward, the woman forced to take murderous matters into her own hands to satiate the calendar’s insatiable hunger for blood.

Does The Advent Calendar earn its ambiguous conclusion? Not entirely, but that’s mainly because the only person throughout the whole endeavor I had any feelings for was Eva. But I like how Derouand handles things, the way he respects his audience and doesn’t feel the need to spoon-feed them every narrative tidbit. He gives just enough information and then allows the viewer to put the pieces together on their own, understanding that in this instance less is indeed more and it is in the not knowing the whys are the hows where true terror oftentimes vindictively dwells.

Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)

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