Selected to cap off the closing night of Fright Fest 2021, The Advent Calendar has come to the attention of horror fans as one of the titles already announced as a future Shudder exclusive. Furthermore, French cinema holds a fond spot in the hearts of many fans thanks to the plethora of cult cinema that came out of the region in the noughties. The Advent Calendar, however, is its own beast, steeped in supernatural curses that feed off the desires of its victims.
What is it about?
“Eva, an ex-dancer, is now living in a wheelchair, unable to walk. When her friend Sophie gives her an old wooden antique advent calendar before Christmas, she realizes each window contains a surprise that triggers repercussions in real life. Some of them are good, but most of them are bad, really bad. Now Eva will have to choose between getting rid of the calendar or walking again – even if it causes death and destruction to everyone she holds dear around her. “
It is important to note that Advent Calendar works best as a character study – horror elements utilized more to punctuate Eva’s desires and fears around the accident that saw her paralyzed. As such, the greatest triumph of the film is undeniably the performance from Eugénie Derouand as Eva. Presenting a great emotional range, Derouand captures the persona of someone in recovery from the trauma of the past – the once prominent dancer losing any admiration of fans and forced to take a job where she as seen as less than capable because of her disability. However, Derouand pushes aside the ‘victim’ label in favor of independence and self assuredness. Essentially, the character feels fully realized and Derouand perfectly balances complex emotions to make Eva feel like a fully formed persona molded by a harsh life experience and past triumphs.
The focus on Eva makes the label of thriller seem like a better fit. Every sinister plot Advent Calendar devises is only so terrifying in the way it affects Eva. There are no jump scares, and the flow of the film is deliberately subdued. However, one undeniable success in capturing horror is in the design of the demon “ich” that uses the calendar as a means to manipulate his victims. There are strict rules in place; always eat the chocolate and never dump the advent calendar. Those who disobey come face to face with a horrendous entity, a ghastly figure whose presence dominates any scene in which it appears. If anything, fans of horror would love to see more of this creature in the future (I can envision a goofy sequel now that ditches the atmosphere for full chaos – one can only dream).
Bringing all the elements of the production together, the visual and audio design is beautifully sleek. Acting as a pretty veneer for most of the drama, the way it is utilized in the few terrifying sequences gives the horror a wonderful dreamlike quality. Ultimately, the stunning presentation helps to carry the film through its long runtime that is light on scares.
What Does not Work?
A rehashing of ‘the monkey’s paw’, no one is going to make the claim that The Advent Calendar is original or inventive. Predictable plot and a familiar premise of wishes from an evil entity coming at a great price, there won’t be any big surprises for the audience. Thankfully, it is such a well executed take on a familiar formula, but still a theme already over explored in horror.
Clocking in at about an hour and forty minutes, the film does spread the horror elements pretty slim, with things only really picking up in the last 20 minutes or so. Not so much taking the slow burn approach as just not really ramping up intensity till closer to climax, the film will be a test for those looking for consistent frights. Ultimately, the film never feels dull but certainly puts greater focus on character development than scares – a fact that will make many viewers skip out early.
The Advent Calendar may lack bite or originality to make it a fan favorite or invite multiple viewings. Regardless, the film presents itself as a slick thriller backed by a phenomenal performance of Eugénie Derouand and the impressive direction of Patrick Ridremont.
Overall, The Advent Calendar may not have you hooting and hollering in the theaters, but it is a beautifully executed thriller worth checking out – thankfully audiences will get to see it soon when it makes its way to Shudder.
Greetings, My name is Adam and I am from Canada.
My love for all things bizarre came at a young age, as boredom in a small town lead me down a rabbit hole of obscure film, music, tv and literature. I have carried these fascinations with and turned it into a passion for writing, sharing and discussing the various arts.
My area of expertise, if there was one, would be geared towards Asian horror with a particular interest in film and manga. However, if it is odd, disturbing or trashy I probably heard of it or can at least pretend I have in conversation.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work, I always look to grow both as a writer and fan. I truly appreciate anyone willing to come along for the journey and share their passions in turn.