Monday, November 29, 2021

The Advent Calendar, on Shudder

In 2021, Germany perversely specialized in inflicting misery on Europe. Much to the free world’s chagrin, they forced through Nord Stream 2, Russia’s energy extorting pipeline, for purely mercenary reasons. There is also a rather sinister German Christmas relic that brings fear and woe to those who receive it. The obvious religious significance of Advent is completely ignored in this Belgian film. Instead, December 24th is just a fateful day to count down towards. For Eva, a wheelchair-bound former dancer, each successive day requires more sacrifices in screenwriter-director Patrick Ridremont’s The Advent Calendar, which premieres this Thursday on Shudder.

Only Eva’s hot mess pal Sophie remembered her birthday. To celebrate, she swiped her a hand-crafted wooden Advent calendar from a holiday market in Munich. Fortunately, she can also translate the instructions, which are surprisingly stern, even if they are in German. Each door contains a candy, but if you eat one, you must eat them all. Also, no skipping ahead. The device is safeguarded against that, until the stroke of midnight releases the next door.

When Eva chomps down on the favorite candy of her Alzheimer’s-afflicted father, he is suddenly calling her on the disconnected land-line. Subsequently, some of the folks that do her wrong find themselves in a mess of trouble. Eva herself also starts losing time and coming-to in alarming positions. Yet, the calendar holds out the promise that she may yet walk again.

Ridremont takes the traditional careful-what-you-wish-for
Twilight Zone-ish premise and adds a whole lot of Final Destination­-style carnage. In this case, there is definitely a supernatural entity connected to the calendar, but frankly Ridremont shows way too much of it. Also, Ridremont plays it somewhat fast-and-loose with the Calendar’s rules. Yet, those same rules still supply a huge “hidden in plain sight” twist that definitely surprises.

Eugenie Derouand is credibly angry and resentful as Eva. Her performance is totally realistic, but it gets to be a chore spending time with her. The same is true for Honorine Magnier as the shallow and self-centered Sophie. However, Jean-François Garreaud has some really gripping scenes playing Eva’s father, in moments of uncanny lucidity.

Even when
Advent Calendar doesn’t make much sense, its unhinged manic energy keeps viewers hooked. It is crazy, melodramatic, and even maybe a little exploitative, but it is still entertaining. Recommended for Sunday school classes, The Advent Calendar starts streaming Thursday (12/2) on Shudder.