Review of the “Advent Calendar”: a month of December full of tips and treats

“The Advent Calendar,” by writer-director Patrick Ridremont, has all kinds of nasty delicacies behind its doors. This feverish dream from a movie contains love potions, evil mother-in-law, benevolent demons, voodoo, sex, alternate realities and more in its 104 minutes. It’s bizarre and dizzying and eerily beautiful in its fervor, as fantastic props and effects distract attention from the absurd plot. But this scenario also clumsily insists that its protagonist, a woman named Eva (Eugénie Derouand) who uses a wheelchair, is obsessed with overcoming her handicap.

The greatest achievement of “The Advent Calendar” (streaming on Shudder) is its titular accessory, designed by Christine Polis, Benoit Polveche and Thierry Gillet. It is a large medieval-looking thing adorned with secret compartments and paintings of saints. Eva receives it as a birthday present from her friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier), who picked it up at a Munich market. The calendar immediately presents Eva with a set of rules: eat all the candy on the calendar or you will die, follow all the instructions on the calendar or you will die, do not throw away the calendar or you will die.

“Sounds grim,” notes Eva.

“The Germans are sinister,” Sophie retorts.

As the month of December unfolds, the calendar entices Eva with wealth, love, and maybe even the chance to walk again, but it also requires sacrifice.

Eva is apparently ready to give up all morality to regain the use of her legs, a dubious representation of disability at best (made all the more questionable by choosing a non-disabled person in the role). “The Advent Calendar” is certainly aware of ableism – Eva resists all kinds of insulting comments from colleagues and strangers – but it depends on a bloodthirsty desire to rid Eva of her disability. While the script attempts to justify this desire for this particular character, as an act of portrayal the film leaves a bitter taste – especially given the already grim landscape for disabled characters in the horror genre.

Advent calendar
Unclassified. In French, with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 44 minutes. Watch on Frisson.

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