‘The Advent Calendar’ Review: A December Full of Tricks and Treats

‘The Advent Calendar’ Review: A December Full of Tricks and Treats

Movies|‘The Advent Calendar’ Review: A December Full of Tricks and Treats

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/02/movies/the-advent-calendar-review.html

In this Christmastime French horror film, a woman struggles against a powerful, old demon eager to rope her into a Faustian bargain.

Credit…Jean-Claude Lother/Shudder

The Advent Calendar
Directed by Patrick Ridremont
Horror, Thriller
1h 44m

“The Advent Calendar,” from the writer-director Patrick Ridremont, has all kinds of nasty delights behind its doors. This fever dream of a film packs love potions, evil stepmothers, benevolent devils, voodoo, sex, alternate realities and more into its 104 minutes. It is bizarre and dizzying and oddly beautiful in its fervor, as fantastical props and effects distract from the nonsensical plot. But this script also clumsily insists that its protagonist, a woman named Eva (Eugénie Derouand) who uses a wheelchair, is murderously obsessed with overcoming her disability.

The greatest achievement of “The Advent Calendar” (streaming on Shudder) is its titular prop, designed by Christine Polis, Benoit Polveche and Thierry Gillet. It’s a grand, medieval-looking thing decked out in secret compartments and paintings of saints. Eva receives it as a birthday gift from her friend, Sophie (Honorine Magnier), who snatched it up at a Munich market. The calendar immediately presents Eva with a set of rules: Eat all the candy in the calendar or you’ll die, follow all of the calendar’s instructions or you’ll die, don’t throw away the calendar or you’ll die.

“Sounds grim,” Eva remarks.

“Germans are grim,” Sophie counters.

As December unfolds, the calendar tantalizes Eva with wealth, love and perhaps even the chance to walk again — but it also demands sacrifices.

Eva is apparently willing to forgo all morality to regain the use of her legs, a dubious representation of disability at best (made all the more questionable by casting a non-disabled person in the role). “The Advent Calendar” is certainly aware of ableism — Eva withstands all manner of insulting comments from co-workers and strangers — yet it hinges on a bloodthirsty desire to rid Eva of her disability. Although the script attempts to justify that desire for this particular character, as an act of representation, the film leaves a sour taste — particularly given the already bleak landscape for disabled characters in the horror genre.

The Advent Calendar

Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes. Watch on Shudder.

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