Not everyone likes their holidays to be filled with sugar and spice and everything nice. Sometimes, it’s best to deck the halls in blood. Anti-Hallmark movie people are in luck because this year Shudder is kicking off 24 days of frightfully good folkloric-tinged holiday horror with The Advent Calendar.
The French-language flick (also known as Le calendrier) is a ghoulishly delightful winter tale filled to the brim with evil stepmothers, voodoo dolls, and treats that would make an old witch squirm with delight in her gingerbread house.
The story centres itself on Eva (Eugénie Derouand), a former dancer who is still coming to terms with life in a wheelchair after losing the use of her legs in an accident. Gifted a quaint German advent calendar as a birthday present, the odd wooden contraption’s bizarre warnings and etchings provoke more of a giggle than a gasp. “Dump me, and I’ll kill you,” reads the dire warning etched on its back.
With each daily treat comes a set of instructions — eat each candy and accept whatever fate it brings, but do not stop until the final door is open. With a terrifying, cuckoo-like demon popping out of the box at midnight, Eva sees a way to ease her suffering and regain the use of her legs, as long as she can accept the consequences that come with each tricky treat.
Written and directed by Patrick Ridremont, The Advent Calendar is a sneaky and suspenseful thriller that bobs and weaves through moments of spookiness, gore, and contemplation. What — or whom — would you sacrifice to have your wildest dreams come true, the film asks.
Though there are some gruesome deaths, The Advent Calendar isn’t exactly terrifying. What it lacks in jump scares and on-screen frights, it more than makes up for with its atmosphere and the trajectory of its central character.
Derouand is mesmerizing as a young woman who inches further and further away from her moral compass and closer to the devilish delights the advent calendar offers. Once Eva realizes what the calendar can do, it becomes her obsession and Derouand makes the change in her demeanour subtle and effective.
Overall, this holiday horror isn’t exactly an escapist thrill ride, but it will be one that stays with you after the credits roll.
The Advent Calendar is now streaming on Shudder.