The Advent Calendar (2021) Is a Holiday Treat for Horror Fans
Title: The Advent Calendar
First Non-Festival Release: December 1, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Patrick Ridremont
Writer: Patrick Ridremont
Runtime: 104 Minutes
Starring: Eugénie Derouand, Honorine Mangier, Clément Olivieri
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
When Eva (Eugénie Derouand), a paraplegic ex-dancer living alone in the city, gets a surprise visit from her friend Sophie (Honorine Mangier) on her birthday, she is gifted a mysterious advent calendar. Sophie admits that she stole the curiosity from a shopkeeper, and they open the first few cabinets together, revealing what look to be simple chocolates with three rules tied to eating them. As each day passes, Eva soon learns that each present bequeathed by the advent calendar has the power to change her world for the better, but also for the worse.
An unexpectedly dark Christmas delight, The Advent Calendar gives the gift of intense holiday horror for its viewers.
The Advent Calendar makes Christmas scary again with a badass demon that forces you to confront your innermost desires during what could be the most wonderful, or loneliest, time of year. The team takes an interesting idea and makes it unique by adding some cool lore to the calendar itself. What’s more, there is so much sequel potential here given what we know. An even-paced holiday horror flick, the psychological nature of The Advent Calendar makes it stand out from the rest of the holiday crowd which typically favors slasher villains and campy creatures during this time of year.
Everyone does a good job with their roles, but Eugénie Derouand takes the lead for her compelling performance as Eva. Eva is strong willed and toughened by her experiences. That doesn’t stop her from being human and feeling the sting of rejection or dismissal. But her drive to push forward is what makes her stand out from other protagonists. Derouand accomplishes this by evoking neither pity nor fear but by this continued resliance in the face of something bizarre.
Eva has obviously hit a rough patch between losing her career as a dancer, having to work a terrible job with an awful boss, and watching her father succumb to Alzheimer’s as his wife plots to take off with his money and property. A typical Christmas film would end with Eva realizing that her desire to continue through the advent calendar is selfish and destructive. Thankfully, The Advent Calendar is not that film and makes it out to be the truly difficult moral conundrum that it is for her. The refusal to hold its audience’s hands is one of many reasons why this film rules.
What makes The Advent Calendar so fun is how Eva must confront the Catch-22 she is given. As she dives deeper into the darkness within herself, she affects those she loves the most. Sure, she also gets to dispatch some of the crueler people in her life, but when the sacrifices get personal, the justifications she makes are wild. As the audience we also see others sacrificing for her in a way that may make the viewer stop and ask themselves if Eva is truly observing this or conjuring it up in her head. A throwaway line about anti-hallucination medication puts this in the realm of possibility. Regardless, the moral quandaries of the film as interesting, if not more, than the supernatural carnage and vengeance bestowed upon those in Eva’s life.
A technically adept film too, The Advent Calendar is incredibly well-made despite being an indie venture. There are some truly impressive visuals throughout the film. I’m still in awe of a suffocating scene involving two characters near water set against a backdrop of pale lavender sky. There isn’t much to the effects work here beyond the creepy as hell demon that lives within the advent calendar. We only get to see it here and there, but the moments are skin crawling and effective. Good sound design amplifies some truly unnerving sequences including the crunching of metal in a car and a body being crushed by a simple foot.
I went into The Advent Calendar with no expectations and found myself blown away by this French-Belgian delight. Boasting a truly interesting and original concept, the demonic advent calendar and its ghoulish entity make for some truly terrifying moments throughout the film. The deaths are plentiful, the morals are murky, and above all it’s an absolute blast of a film. I appreciate that it doesn’t go the easy way out for the audience and leaves viewers to interpret Eva’s fate. Some people will get angry with it, but I’m glad to share that I am not in that camp. For those aching for some fresh holiday horrors to add to their seasonal watch list, look no further than The Advent Calendar for your stocking stuffer this year.
Overall Score? 7.5/10