Writer-director Patrick Riedremont’s Advent Calendar has all sorts of unpleasant delights behind its doors. Love potions, evil stepmothers, benevolent devils, voodoo, sex, alternate realities and more are packed into this feverish movie dream in 104 minutes. It’s whimsical, dizzying, and weirdly beautiful in its playfulness, as the fantastical props and effects distract from the meaningless plot. But this script also awkwardly insists that its protagonist, a woman named Eve (Eugenie Derwand), who uses a wheelchair, is deathly obsessed with overcoming her disability.
The biggest achievement of the Advent Calendar (broadcast on Shudder) is its title prop designed by Christine Polis, Benoit Polveshe and Thierry Gillet. This is a grandiose medieval building, decorated with secret chambers and paintings of saints. Eva receives it as a birthday present from her friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier), who bought it in the Munich market. The calendar immediately presents Eve with a set of rules: eat all the candies on the calendar or die, follow all the calendar instructions or die, don’t throw the calendar away, or die.
“Sounds dark,” Eve says.
“The Germans are gloomy,” says Sophie.
As December rolls around, the calendar teases Eve with wealth, love, and perhaps even the ability to walk again, but it also requires sacrifice.
Eve appears to be willing to give up all morality in order to regain the ability to use her legs, which is, at best, a dubious notion of disability (made even more dubious when a non-disabled person was cast in the role). The Advent Calendar certainly knows about Eilism – Eve can withstand all sorts of offensive comments from colleagues and strangers – but still it is based on a bloodthirsty desire to rid Eve of her incapacity. While the script tries to justify this pursuit of this particular character as an act of representation, the film leaves a sour taste – especially given the already bleak landscape for disabled characters in the horror genre.
Not rated. In French with subtitles. The duration of the performance is 1 hour 44 minutes. Take a look at Shudder.