Review: The Advent Calendar

‘The Advent Calendar’ is an effective Christmas chiller, offering intrigue and some genuine chills as its unorthodox mystery unfolds.

After receiving a creepy advent calendar as a gift from a friend, a wheelchair bound young lady faces a 24 days long series of moral dilemmas as she must make choices, some of which offer her great reward, but always at a cost, always with sacrifice. The titular advent calendar comes with a very specific set of rules. Each day you must open the calendar and consume the candy inside, however its not before long that she quickly realises that there is perhaps more happening to her body than just an increase in blood-sugar. What starts off fairly benign, becomes increasingly insidious, and, as with all cursed objects just binning it out isn’t an option. Having to see through the full advent through, she’s forced to consider her own gains against the cost to those around her.

As a chiller the movie isn’t full-on terrifying, but it does a great job of generating an effective atmosphere and tension. Despite its fantasy-esk antagonist, the movie is dark and at times sufficiently cruel.

By design the threat is limited to the scope of its context, each candy relates to one specific act of either redemption or sacrifice, and therefore a set piece relating to the subject follows each opening of the calendar’s door. The set pieces are varied in their nature, with the ‘nicer’ candies providing much of the exposition or focussed on moving the characters stories forwards introducing love interests and such like. Of course the overarching story (and ultimate choice) centres around addressing the desire for the wheel-bound protagonist to walk again; and this adds some grounding and emotional investment to the story. The characters, and the moral quandary they represent is perhaps the movies most impactful component as all of the characters have a multitude of layers to them, and no choice – except bar one, that of a sexual predator, is an easy one; given the stakes.

On the other side of the spectrum the ‘sacrifice’ candies almost always see one of the cast meeting a grisly end. These set-pieces range from the creative – for example a dog using a toy car as a chew toy, and it enacting the same damage on a vehicle in real life – voodoo style, to a more traditional stalk and slash sequence which sees the effigy of the calendars creepy priest take on a corporal form; this is where the films more typical sequences play out.

When it turns it on, the film’s shocks are much in line with modern ‘Blum-house’ style jolts, and whilst you don’t always see the priest in full, there are plenty of jump-scare moments mixed in with some typical euro-style gore. Ironically, the one scene in which you do see the priest in his full CGI glory is probably the films only real mis-fire – he probably didn’t benefit from being in broad daylight either.  

But back to where the film succeeds these sequences are, for the most part, nicely effective, and as the film progresses the stakes only escalate culminating in some of the films more gory moments towards its conclusion.

Overall, ‘The Advent Calendar’ is an effectively spooky shocker, with a decent context and characters. Given the genuine empathy for, and relatable characters, this movie avoids descending into cliched farse ensuring that, whilst this is most definitely in the popcorn horror domain, ‘The Advent Calendar’ is another solid festive chiller – if not perhaps requiring subsequent watching. If you’ve enjoyed other fantasy-based euro-horrors, consider movies such as ‘Livid’, you’ll likely get on well with this too.

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