Eva, an ex-dancer, is now living in a wheelchair, unable to walk. when her friend Sophie gives her an old wooden antique advent calendar before Christmas, she realizes each window contains a surprise that triggers repercussions in real life: some of them good, but most of them bad – Now Eva will have to choose between getting rid of the calendar or walking again – even if it causes death around her.

Cast: Eugénie Derouand, Honorine Magnier, Clément Olivieri, Janis Abrikh, Cyril Garnier, Vladimir Perrin

Directors: Patrick Ridremont
Writers: Patrick Ridremont
Editing: Thierry Delvigne
Thomas Couzinier, Frédéric Kooshmanian

I’m a big fan of Christmas and horror movies combined into one genre, and The Advent Calendar fits the bill for those seeking a spooky holiday season tale. It’s a French film, but the main inspiration is German folklore, although fortunately, it’s not another take on Krampus. I’ve had my take of them for a little bit over the last few years. 

Eva (Eugénie Derouand) was an avid dancer before a car accident left her paralysed from the waist down. She lives alone and works for a crappy boss, all the while not willing to talk to guys she finds attractive, afraid no one will love her as she is now. She isn’t weak, though, and the film sets this up early as we see her exiting a pool and waving off the would-be flirtatious pool-dude who’s left speechless when she asks him to get her chair. When her long-time friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier) returns from a trip to Germany with an advent calendar as a birthday gift, things soon take a turn for the weird and eventually deadly. 

Reading the rules, the calendar states it’ll make its owner dreams true, but once you bite into the first chocolate, you must eat each one following, and you mustn’t try to destroy or throw away the calendar. If you, it promises it’ll kill you. Laughing it off, Evie opens it over the first couple of days and things she’s dreaming about start coming true. Her Father, with Alzheimer’s, rings her on her birthday, talking to her for the first time in years. The guy she’s seen about town and is attracted to starts talking to her on his own accord, and a would-be rapist meets a grisly end as Eva calls for him to drop dead. But the calendar and the being inside, known simply as “Ich”, begins asking for sacrifices from Eva herself, especially if she wants her big wish of being able to walk again to come true. 

The lore laid out in The Advent Calendar is fascinating, and the premise I was instantly hooked by; however, the film treats its own rules with such flimsy. Characters consistently break and do away with what was laid out as three relatively simple rules for the calendar, and it becomes confusing as to who and when someone actually broke one of the rules and if Ich will punish them. 

I empathise with Eva’s desire to talk to her Father and understand that a terrible accident took dancing from her. Still, at times, she becomes void of human emotion and rides a thin line into becoming unlikable. Luckily she never crosses it, but the side characters, specially Magnier’s Sophie, is very one dimensional and unlikeable. I would have loved to see a more sympathetic character in her place and someone who would have helped make the later scenes in the movie heavier with the shared history between Eva and Sophie. It implied that Sophie was driving a car that caused Eva’s injury to occur. 

Director and writer Patrick Ridremont reveals Ich all too early, taking the tension and mystery out of the calendar. Still, I was hooked from start to finish as I wondered just what the calendar’s doors would reveal, give, or take from Eva on a day-to-day basis in the lead up to Christmas. If you’re interested in a new and bloody horror film to watch over this holiday season, The Advent Calendar is going to be a solid pick with an exciting premise and ability to make you never want to eat chocolate out of mystery doors ever again.

The Advent Calendar is now streaming on Shudder