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‘The Advent Calendar (Le Calendrier)’ review: Shudder Christmas horror movie is a doozy

I will kill you.

The Advent Calendar (Le Calendrier) is a holiday horror film in name only. It does happen around Christmas, and obviously there is the titular object, but there is little else to suggest it is the most wonderful time of the year. Eva is an ex-dancer who is no longer able to walk. When her friend Sophie gives her an advent calendar before Christmas, it becomes the answer to her greatest hope. It also is the gateway to unspeakable evil. 

If it sounds like an episode of The Twilight Zone, that is because there are plenty of similarities. Chief among them is the “be careful what you wish for” motif that runs throughout The Advent Calendar. There are also some deaths that are straight from an anthology television series, including one involving a dog that is as silly as it is violent. 

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Which is not to say The Advent Calendar is like a stretched out installment from Tales from the Crypt. It is able to weave different types of horror into its twisting plot. For starters, the film takes a much deeper dive into its main character than a thirty minute TV show would allow. While there is too much time spent dancing around what Eva truly desires, there is some insight given into her.

As things get darker and the body count increases, it becomes more clear that Eva wants to be “normal”. This is seen from the very opening moments and is at the center of almost every interaction in The Advent Calendar. There are some characters who look down on her (one particularly odious person calls her a “half-chick”), but no one is harder on Eva than she is on herself. 

This leads to an interesting character who is filled self-pity and loathing. She is quick to point out what she feels she is incapable of doing and feels she has no hope for a love life. This does not prevent her from holding down a job and swimming, however. Eva seems to have given up on certain aspects of her life while pushing forward in others. It is an odd mix that The Advent Calendar constantly teases to develop more. It never quite happens as much as the movie would like, but what is provided works. 

As interesting as Eva can be, there are some missteps in The Advent Calendar. The film does a nice job of setting up what the rules of the movie are going to be. Helping matters is they stylish ways in which the film provides dates. Since such a clear job is done laying out the rules, it becomes obvious when they are not followed. This ruins some of the fun. There are many subplots introduced and none of them are resolved.

the advent calendar

On the flip side, The Advent Calendar is paced perfectly. Everything takes place over a few weeks and while some days move quicker than others, it never seems like anything is being glossed over. (Considering the premise, there is an odd lack of suspense, though.) There  are some fantastic scares and things never get boring. Even when things slow down to develop the characters – always a risk in scary movies – it never impacts the story. 

The Christmas season seems to offer as many horror movies as Halloween. It is certainly as difficult to find ones that will become a regular viewing part of the holidays. The ending tries to get a too clever and there is the nagging question of how Eva can know so much about, but The Advent Calendar is a fine Christmas horror movie.

The Advent Calendar premieres on Shudder December 2

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