The Advent Calendar (Le calendrier) is a French horror film, that is far more of a suspenseful thriller than what most audiences expect from a horror picture. Written and directed by Patrick Ridremont, the film centers around Eva (Eugénie Derouand) a former professional dancer who was injured in a car accident and left paralyzed. Eva has a lot going wrong in her life, beyond being wheelchair-bound, she’s struggling at work, her best friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier) is selfish, and her father is rapidly declining from Alzheimer’s. Beyond the opening sequence that sets the scene for the final moments of the film, the first fifteen minutes of The Advent Calendar seem rather uneventful.
Right up until the moment that Sophie presents Eva with an unforgettable birthday gift—an ancient German Advent calendar with an ominous warning inscribed on the back. The premise of the film is not entirely new: a girl receives a cursed object, the girl plays along with the game, a monkey’s paw scenario plays out granting her wish, and loads of people die. But the way it plays out in The Advent Calendar was unique enough to keep you sitting on the edge of your seat wondering how the story ends.
Eugénie Derouand gives a tremendous performance, committing fully to the madness of the plot and taking audiences on an emotional and transformative journey. She makes audiences sympathize with her and overlook the horrible things that she does, and allows to happen, in order to get wish fulfillment. Somehow she is both the final girl and the killer.
The demon, or whatever it is, dwelling within the Advent calendar is apparently called “Ich,” which I initially missed when watching the film for the first time. “Ich” of course means “I” in German, which makes complete sense when looking at the film retrospectively. Every choice Eva makes is driven by her own desires and motivations, she follows every rule, every demand—causing everyone in her life to die so that she can walk again. Is there even a demon or are people just driven by their own egos? Are they their own demon? One could argue that by the end, Eva has sacrificed her sense of self to follow the demands of “Ich.”
Speaking of deaths, this film has no shortage of unique and reinventive deaths. In fact, the first death that occurs is one that audiences will cheer for. It should also come with a mild warning, as Eva is sexually assaulted by a vile man, who fortunately gets his just desserts almost immediately. The demon repeatedly removes “bad” people from Eva’s life, but “Ich” also kills the good ones too.
Ridremont deserves a round of applause for conceptualizing such an intelligent thriller, using something as innocuous as an Advent calendar to explore the human condition. I was shocked to discover that this was his first feature, as it’s flawlessly directed and the script keeps audiences continuously engaged and entertained.
There are a lot of other aspects of the film that I would love to discuss in this review, but so much of the film hinges on going into it completely blind. It would be a disservice to the story and the work of the film to reveal the finer details of the plot. The Advent Calendar is an incredibly clever film, so don’t miss out on it just because it has subtitles. French filmmakers have been putting out some truly spectacular films in recent years that deserve a wider audience and The Advent Calendar is no exception.
If you put your milk and cookies out for Krampus, rather than Santa Clause on Christmas Eve then you are the exact right audience of The Advent Calendar. Outside of the Advent calendar, you might forget the film is set around the holidays—it lacks Christmas cheer or garish decorations, leaning more into a bleak story that matches the tragic undertones of Eva’s choices.
The Advent Calendar (Le calendrier) is out on December 3rd, just in time for a bloody good holiday season.
Maggie Lovitt is the Managing Editor of Entertainment at Wealth of Geeks where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery. She is also a freelance writer and News Editor at Collider. She has had bylines at Inverse, Polygon, and Dorkside of the Force. She is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association.
When she is not covering entertainment news, she can be found on one of her numerous podcasts or on her YouTube channel. In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and member of the Screen Actors Guild.