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  Advent Calendar, The Christmas With The Temptations
Year: 2021
Director: Patrick Ridremont
Stars: Eugenie Derouand, Honorine Magnier, Clement Olivieri, Janis Abrikh, Cyril Garnier, Vladimir Perrin, Fabien Jegoudez, Jerome Paquatte, Laura Presgurvic, Isabelle Tanakil, Jean-Francois Garreaud, Olivier Bonjour, Sabrina Lopez Leonard
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Eva (Eugenie Derouand) has been understandably glum since a car accident left her paralysed from the waist down. She tries to keep active by swimming regularly, and holding down an insurance job despite a terrible boss, but she can't help but notice she makes people uncomfortable when she shows up in her wheelchair, and frankly it's getting her down, knowing the rest of her life will be like this. But one evening as Christmas approaches, her best friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier) arrives with a present: an antique German advent calendar made out of wood, which purports to have various rules about how to use it, including stuff like "If you eat the first candy, you must eat every one of the rest", and more alarmingly, "Destroy this and I will destroy you"...

Horror gimmicks had become quite the in thing come the twenty-first century, a novelty to build your frights around, and The Advent Calendar, or La Calendrier in its original French, had a doozy, not only rendering writer and director Patrick Ridremont's chiller a seasonal effort, but showing off its central contraption to its best advantage as it grants wishes Eva barely knew she had. Or is it coaxing out her more hateful thoughts to exploit them? The first thing it does is provide her with a phone call from her father, no big deal you might think until you twig that he is in late stages Alzheimer's and has not spoken to her, never mind used a phone, for a long time. From that you might anticipate everything is going to be rosy for Eva, and that a life-changing benefit may be on the way.

Let's face it, you will be waiting for the ex-dancer to get the use of her legs returned, and you will not be surprised to learn the film does not disappoint, but ah, those caveats which are revealed in the wrapping papers of the chocolates will have something to interject. So every time a good thing happened, like Eva getting romantic interest from handsome nurse William (Clement Olivieri) who quickly becomes her boyfriend despite not knowing precisely why (she slipped a love potion in his mulled wine at an outdoor cafe, that's why), there will be a grimmer development to counterpoint it. For instance, Sophie takes her out for drinks with a couple of businessmen, and the boorish one opts to take her home: except he is more interested in sexually assaulting her in a surprisingly unpleasant sequence which has you doubting the wisdom of Ridremont's scripting.

Presumably he wanted to push the envelope in some manner, but no matter how much Eva begins to embrace the cruelty, sometimes the film goes too far for its effects, as you could envisage a clever little fable could be crafted out of the rules of the plot that did not need to wallow in the depths of humanity's bleak soul. There was a black comedy element about it, though not much in the way of kneeslappers, and we can tell there is trouble afoot for the calendar's custodian thanks to cutaways to a tortured-looking denizen of the box which is supposed to represent the manipulative "I", as in "I will kill you". Why this has a German origin is another odd choice, unless Ridremont wished to evoke The Brothers Grimm, which to be fair he did, though the shenanigans here are a shade too overcomplex to be really pleasing, and the ending is fumbled to a degree, possibly in service of hopes for a sequel. But overall this was a smart shocker which took a heroine not many other mainstream movies would consider and placed her centre stage, okay, that was to tempt her into transgressive acts, but it offered the piece some distinction. Music by Thomas Couzinier and Frederic Kooshmanian.

[The Advent Calendar - Shudder Original
New film premieres 2nd December 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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