Patrick Ridremont’s The Advent Calendar arrives on Shudder in today and is a fantastic way to begin the season of festive frights. The French language film tells the story of ex-dancer Eva (Eugénie Derouand), now living in a wheelchair, who is gifted a wooden advent calendar from her friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier). It’s not the typical calendar though as, in addition to candy, each window contains a surprise that triggers real-life repercussions, most of them bad. It does, however also present Eva with the chance to walk again, but can Eva live with the consequences?
The Advent Calendar presents an idea that we’ve seen countless times before: be careful what you wish for, but does it in a fun, creepy, and effective way. Beginning on 3rd December, the windows take little time in getting to the weird stuff as Eva finds herself the recipient of a call from her father who has dementia. From there it escalates quickly and soon a pile of bodies begin to mount. Following the pattern of several other films, the first few deaths are very deserving candidates, a date rapist being the absolute most worthy.
These types of films live or die on the raising of stakes, and the ingenuity of its kill sequences. Fortunately, Ridremont ups the intensity expertly and the kills are out of this world. Each is different to the last, but all are entertaining and best viewed in a crowd. If we had to pick one as a tent pole sequence, it would be the demise of the aforementioned rapist. They meet their end via Eva’s dog, but not in way one would expect. It’s deviously dark and crushingly brilliant.
Although set at Christmas, Ridremont keeps the usual festive garb to a minimum. It’s not an in-your-face garish yuletide film. With the exception of a depressing looking tree in the background of Eva’s apartment, the only significant festive element is the calendar itself.
Films with rules are always a lot of fun and there is a list of caveats to Eva’s use of the calendar. Firstly, if she eats one candy, she has to eat them all or she will die. She has to respect the rules or else she dies, and if she dumps it she will, you’ve guessed it – die. The perpetrator of this violence is a creature called Ich. Ich himself is a horrid looking being and has several sinister moments that show his ability for malevolence. The design of Ich falls somewhere between Pinhead and Pyramid Head, Ridremont clearly trying to ensure sleepless nights.
The perfect Christmas chiller that forgoes the festivities in favour of frights. Some genuinely inventive deaths give The Advent Calendar the potential to be a future classic. With new monster, Ich, and a slew of ingenious deaths, The Advent Calendar is the scary movie you absolutely must watch this festive season.
The Advent Calendar is available to watch on Shudder now.
This review first appeared on THN.