The Advent Calendar - A Silent Fright, Holy Fright Christmassy Review
Director: Patrick Ridremont
Starring: Eugénie Derouand, Honorine Magnier, Clément Olivieri, Janis Abrikh
Written by: Patrick Ridremont
Produced by: Virginie Oguoz
Cinematography by: Patrick Ridremont, Guillaume du Laurent
Original Score by: Thomas Couzinier, Frédéric Kooshmanian
Eva is a paraplegic. On her birthday, her friend Sophie gives her a strange Advent calendar. It's not the traditional treats you find when you open each drawer, but quirky gifts that are scary and get bloodier.
The excitement and buzz of the festive season can be infectious and chaotic as we draw ever closer to Christmas day but for all of it’s madness, the true meaning of this joyous time of year can be distilled into the simplest of symbols like the advent calendar. A centuries old tradition when a door is open each day to unveil treats or pictures reminding us of what this time of year is all about. Be it the image of a family gathered around a Christmas tree flush with decorations, three wise men following a star to Bethlehem or (if you're Father Dougal Maguire) Ruud Gullit sitting on the roof of a shed, these moments set alight the hearts of the coldest person. This sentiment clearly isn't shared by director Patrick Ridremont who views it as a device of physical and emotional torture wishing nothing but ill will to all men and as horror fans we are all the more grateful for it.
The film centres around Eva, a former dancer whose life is changed forever after a severe accident. Now paraplegic she chooses not to be defined by her disability but this is no easy task. Her love life suffers due to the way men view her, her boss resents her for the workplace adjustments he has to make for her and even a simple trip to the pub provokes looks of disdain from members of the public. On top of this she has a father long suffering from dementia, slowly losing his memories of her. Eugénie Derouand does a fine job in this role with subtle looks of despair hidden behind a seemingly steely veneer that could shatter at any moment. It is that perfect balance of vulnerability and strength which makes her performance a real highlight of the film.
With Christmas just around the corner Eva's old friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier) visits and gives her an early gift from a German marketplace, an old advent calendar. However this is no ordinary advent calendar as it is bound by three rules. Every treat behind each door must be consumed, all rules must be obeyed until the last door is opened and the calendar must not be thrown away under punishment of death.
Each day presents an opportunity for something good or bad to happen to Eva but it is always at a price. This "monkey paw" like premise seems like something lifted straight out of 'Creepshow' but the tone is played quite seriously at first before descending into something more playful. In a strange way it is both a strength and a weakness. The invention behind each trick is quite fun but it also slightly undermines the stakes, chipping away at any tension or terror built up throughout the film.
The plot device that is the calendar offers as many plot holes as it does thrills, playing around with it's predefined rules and the reveal of the demonic entity that is tied to the calendar is somewhat underwhelming as it looks like a reject from 'Silent Hill' drawing no sense of fear from the viewer. Other aspects of the film are pretty standard fare such as the score, cinematography and dialogue with nothing really standing out.
Whilst it may not be one of the best festive horrors (but then again not every film can be 'Krampus') 'The Advent Calendar' is a film with a premise far better than it's execution but it is still without a doubt an entertaining watch. Yes there are tonal imbalances and some questionable script choices but what really drives the film is the central performance from Eugénie Derouand and the devilish take on a seemingly innocent tradition.
- Joseph McElroy