Shudder’s Holiday Horror Film ‘The Advent Calendar’ Intros a Potentially Iconic New Monster

Shudder’s Holiday Horror Film ‘The Advent Calendar’ Intros a Potentially Iconic New Monster

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There’s nothing as bracing in the middle of the awards season slog of important big film spectacles than a nasty, disrespectful holiday horror movie. With all that humanity on display at the multiplexes, a bit of bloodletting and terror is exactly what’s needed. Throw another yule log on the fire along with a severed limb or two and now we’re in the holiday spirit.

The Advent Calendar — a Shudder original now available on the streaming platform — is this year’s holiday horror movie (unless you count The Humans, which you should), but it’s not disrespectful. Written and directed by Patrick Ridremont, The Advent Calendar is yet another very good Shudder original.

Eva (Eugénie Deouand), a former dancer that lost the use of her legs in an accident, is visited by her friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier), who arrives with a birthday gift of a funky, wooden German advent calendar. Unlike the usual ones that open daily to reveal a seasonal picture or a branded item (they have them for LEGO and L’Occitane, to name just two), Sophie’s gift comes with mysterious instructions to follow (just like a Gremlin!). All of the food items must be eaten. Every instruction must be followed. You must not get rid of the calendar. Following the rules, as Eva soon learns, will manifest her desires. Failure to adhere to any of the commands will result in death.

The moment that Eva bites into the first piece of candy she receives, she’s entered into a Faustian bargain with “Ich,” the supernatural being that powers the advent calendar (and who conveniently takes form to administer punishment when needed). It pops up from the top of the structure looking like a tiny wooden 2D version of Candyman. In the flesh, Ich (German for “I”) has the flexible skin and BDSM vibe of a Clive Barker hellion.

Yet Ich isn’t the monster here as much as Eva’s own needs — to speak with her father, who’s in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and, basically, imprisoned by her stepmother; to have a boyfriend; to someday be able to walk and dance again.

The holiday horror movie begins innocently enough. That piece of candy — a chocolate thin mint, her father’s favorite — occasions a call from him on a broken landline to wish her a happy birthday. When she receives a second chocolate a week later, she brings it to her father to eat. He recognizes her and gives her a message from Ich: others will suffer for you to have what you want and, when it’s her father’s turn to be sacrificed, she should not hesitate. (Getting rid of her evil stepmother is a bonus she can’t resist.)

The innocent and guilty are slaughtered equally. (If you are a sexual harasser or in any way abusive, well, Ich is coming for you: #metoobitch). Animals are not protected (Eva’s own dog — who gets the best killing scene — is one of the film’s most terrible, and impactful, sacrifices). Old friends, especially those who may have been texting while driving and, hence, responsible for the loss of the use of your limbs, may not survive the night in a cabin.

Ridremont’s dark tale crams too much into its 1:44 run time. Busy subplots, while entertainingly evil, could be excised without changing the general plot. Other than Eva, Sophie and Eva’s father (Jean-François Garreaud), the characters are one-dimensional and easily dispensed. And Ridremont undercuts the moral paradox at the film’s center by revealing how the damage may be reversed (while at the same time opening up the possibility of a sequel).

Yet the bones of the premise — like those of The Ring or Final Destination or It Follows before — are sturdy. The film looks sumptuous, better lighted than most horror movies and even a few big important spectacles currently in theaters. Much care was put into the creation of Ich as well as the advent calendar itself. And Ridremont has introduced us to a new supernatural being that has the potential to become iconic. For horror fans, that’s nothing to scoff at.

New holiday horror movie The Advent Calendar, directed by Patrick Ridremont, is streaming on Shudder now.

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