THE ADVENT CALENDAR (La Calendrier) (Belgium/France 2021) ***
Directed by Patrick Ridremont
From Belgium comes this deliciously wicked Christmas treat that is as downright nasty in its premise. THE ADVENT CALENDAR promises a surprise treat or trick very day in December from the 1st. The film unfolds in days as the protagonist a paraplegic, Eva is presented with this gift from her friend, Sophia visiting from Germany during Christmas.
Helpless disabled damsels in distress appear to be favourites in the horror genre. Audrey Hepburn and Mia Farrow were blind characters stalked by killers in WAIT UNTIL DARK and BLIND TERROR. The distressed damsel in THE ADVENT CALENDAR is a beautiful ex-dancer wheelchair bound. Her killer in this case is not so straightforward. A blind victim can run away from her attacker but a paraplegic cannot.
Eva (Eugénie Derouand), is an ex-dancer, is now using a wheelchair, unable to walk, as she is introduced in the film’s first scene as she swims and has to be put in her wheelchair after the swim. A male swimmer hits on her, only to be taken aback after he discovers his prized date-to-be to be a paraplegic. Eva replies with a snide remark indicating that she is independent and strong enough to accept her fate and that she can be nasty if she wants. When her friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier gives her an old wooden antique advent calendar that she stole from a vendor at the Munich market in Germany before Christmas. (It is a magnificent ornament that I would have no qualms purchasing myself.) Sophie explains the German instructions that come with the gift.
There are three rules that must be followed or “I will kill you!” follows the warning. The first rule is that if you eat one candy, you must eat them all. The second rule: “Respect all rules until you open the last door” and the third: is that “ if you dump the calendar then….”
Eva 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.
The first date is a date that Sophie arranges for date with herself and Eva and his friends. The date turns out to be a disgusting, tactless womanizer who makes sexual advances towards Eva. “You did not resist when I started,” he says to which Eva replies to the asshole that paraplegics cannot feel waist down. He gets what is coming - an awful death.
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.
The story contains three very evil human beings who seem to be put down on the planet to torment Eva. Her boss is unsympathetic to Eva’s disability, degrading and calling her a half woman. Her father’s nurse sells her father’s house and puts him in a home. And there is Boris the asshole date.
Director Ridremont adds to the horror with a palette of colours, darkness and things that go bump in the dark. In one splendid cry scene, Eva wakes up in a hospital with a crazy patient besides her, now knowing how she got there.
The Shudder original French (Belgium) horror fantasy THE ADVENT CALENDAR opens exclusively on Thursday, December 2nd. Combining Faustian themes and allusions with European folklore and tense, chilling terror, the Shudder Original film provides some highly unusual holiday season horror.