‘Arrival Calendar’ Review: An Interval of Tricks and Treats

Writer-director Patrick Ridremont’s “The Advent Calendar” has all kinds of unpleasant pleasures behind its doors. This fiery dream of a movie packs love potions, evil stepmothers, benevolent demons, voodoo, sex, alternate realities and more into 104 minutes. The fantastic props and effects are whimsical and dizzying, and strangely beautiful in their euphoria, as they move away from the ridiculous plot. But this scenario also clumsily insists that the main character, a wheelchair user named Eva (Eugénie Derouand), has a fatal obsession with overcoming her disability.

The biggest success of “The Advent Calendar” (Stream in Shudder) is the titular propeller designed by Christine Polis, Benoit Polveche and Thierry Gillet. It’s a large, medieval-looking thing adorned with secret chambers and saints’ paintings. Eva receives it as a birthday present from her friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier), who snatches it at the Munich market. The calendar immediately presents Eva with a set of rules: Eat all the candy on the calendar or you will die, follow all the instructions on the calendar or you will die, do not throw the calendar away or you will die.

“Sounds scary,” Eva said.

“The Germans are ruthless,” Sophie protests.

As December progresses, the calendar seduces Eva with wealth, love, and perhaps the chance to walk again—but it also requires sacrifices.

Eva is apparently willing to give up all morals to be able to re-use her legs, which is at best a dubious representation of disability (making it even more suspicious by playing a non-disabled person in the role). “The Advent Calendar” is certainly well aware of its robustness – Eva withstands all kinds of derogatory comments from coworkers and strangers – yet it is tied to a bloodthirsty desire to save Eva from her disability. While the script tries to justify this desire for 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.

Advent Calendar
Not rated. French, with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 44 minutes. Watch it on Shudder.

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