India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.
“Follow the rules until you open the last door—or I’ll kill you.”
— "The Advent Calendar," 2021
Given that Christmas-themed horror movies are few and far between, I was excited to stumble across The Advent Calendar (2021) on Shudder. (If you’ve never heard of Shudder, it’s Netflix for horror movies—highly recommend.) Unfortunately, The Advent Calendar failed to live up to my expectations. Despite its unique premise, the film’s plot is disjointed, the villain disappointing, and the characters unsympathetic. While I freely admit that I’ve seen worse, I wouldn’t recommend The Advent Calendar unless you’re looking to waste ninety minutes of your life.
The Many Problems of The Advent Calendar
The film follows Eva (Eugenie Derouand), a paraplegic who receives a mysterious Advent calendar for her birthday. Of course, she soon realizes that the gift contains more than candy.
Which brings me to the movie’s first (and perhaps the biggest) problem: the monster inhabiting said calendar. For despite his menacing appearance, Ich is a bit of a letdown. For one thing, we never learn anything about him—not even his name (Ich is I in German). Judging from the religious imagery decorating the calendar as well as Ich’s clothing, it’s safe to assume he was a priest at some point (either that, or he enjoys cosplaying. I’m not judging).
Still, this raises more questions than answers. How does one go from being a priest to a demon? And why would a demon bother granting people’s wishes in the first place? It’s true that the calendar requires sacrifices, but as soon as the recipient eats the last piece of candy they return to December first, where their memories are erased and all of Ich’s victims are still alive. Why not pull a Hellraiser and torture them for eternity? Giving people an out seems a little too charitable for someone who clearly enjoys their suffering.
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Also, I know I’ve complained about this before, but what is it with horror movies and making their characters—the protagonist included—unlikable? I enjoy watching selfish and arrogant people get their comeuppance as much as the next person, but if every member of the cast is obnoxious it gets old fast.
While it’s a given that most of Ich’s victims will be unsympathetic, the protagonist should at least be tolerable. Otherwise, what’s the point in rooting for her? However, as the film went on, it became more and more difficult for me to sympathize with Eva. After a while, I found myself wishing Ich would dispose of her!
This is because although Eva is beautiful and talented, the calendar reveals a dark and twisted aspect of her personality which makes it increasingly difficult to feel sorry for her. In other words, our lovely protagonist takes a little too much pleasure in sacrificing people.
For example, when referring to the death of her stepmother, Agnes—a sacrifice not demanded by Ich—Eva admits that she killed the woman “for pleasure” rather than out of necessity. Nor does she hesitate to slaughter her beloved dog, Marvin—even though, unlike most of the humans she’s killed he is entirely blameless. (At least this happens off screen).
Fun for Sociopaths?
Even though Eva’s actions will be undone once she consumes the last candy (something she doesn’t discover until she has already caused the deaths of several people), it’s more than a little unsettling to observe her lack of emotion as everyone around her perishes.
Sure, there are some tears and trembling, but it almost seems as though Eva reacts this way because she believes it is what is expected of her, rather than out of genuine emotion. I mean, even after witnessing so many deaths she invites a guy back to her hotel room and casually explains the whole situation after they do the horizontal tango. (I mean, you do you girl, but it hardly seems like the time.)
And don’t even get me started on Sophie (Honorine Magnier). (Seriously, don’t. We’ll be here all year.)
© 2022 India LaPalme