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“Es ist Mitternacht”
Genre: Foreign Holiday Horrors
Year Released: 2021
Where I Watched: Shudder
Synopsis: Eva, a young woman who became a paraplegic after a horrible car accident three years ago, was celebrating her birthday alone. Well, until her friend Sophie who’s been in Germany surprises Eva with cake, bubbly, and a present; a gorgeous Advent calendar from Munich. Every day has a candy…and a few rules. Eat the candy, or “I’ll kill you”. Follow the rules, or “I’ll kill you”. Don’t try to get rid of the calendar or…well, you get the idea. Gee thanks Sophie. You’re the greatest.
Fabulous or Frustrating?: Filmed in Brussels, so yeah you’re gonna have subtitles. What, scaaaaared? Trust me, this story is so much fun, you’ll forget you’re reading subtitles after a bit. Plus, with the main story in French and the Advent calendar speaking German? Yeah, like me, you’ll start to figure out what’s going on with the subs being icing. But about those goings on…I dug it. Sure, it’s basically another spin on the Monkey’s Paw/Wishmaster subgenre, with Eva being tempted with the ability to walk again if she only follows the rules. Those evil, evil rules.
Writer/director Patrick Ridremont uses an Advent calendar to slowly amp up the sinister goings on, with every day bringing something new. At first, Eva gets some pretty sweet treats; a chance to speak to her father (who hasn’t recognized her since his dementia went full-on), an adorable guy who seems to be totally into her, and a boatload of money thanks to a creep that tried to buy her with online trading earnings. Things go bad, of course; her father isn’t lucid for long, she loses her job thanks to a candy bender, and said creep dies a horrible death thanks to the calendar and her dog. Yeah, her dog. Don’t get attached. Calendar plays with time, so viewers aren’t just going through an evil day-by-day nightmare; that candy bender Eve goes through knocks out four days, and there are several scenes where the result of a particular piece of candy has effects that last all day, but feel like they’ve only lasted a moment. Plus, Eva’s birthday is December 3rd, so she gets to open a few all at once. The film counts down the days, so it’s easy to keep track of how much time has passed. Especially nice when days blur or blend together.
The cinematography and shot choices are well done, including a particularly wild use of the fisheye lens when she’s running around trying to catch the telephone on Day 17. And then there’s the wonderful “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” use of shadows in one scene that had me almost standing up to applaud. Toss in a few interesting Tales From The Crypt/Creepshow-esque twists here and there that had me guessing what would happen next, and a good time was had by all. (All meaning me.) There are a few “days” that feel a bit off – why is she suddenly all gung-ho on one day, then horrified the next? And perhaps I just wasn’t comprehending the big reveal when she heads to Germany to get answers…but after I sat with it, it made sense. (That said, having to sit with it after the film played out rather than me catching on during the story? Knocked the storytelling down a peg, in my humble.) All in all though, it’s a story that will have folks who are tired of sappy rom-coms thankful for this holiday season. What did we learn today, kiddies? EAT THAT CANDY.
Freak-O-Meter: 4 out of 5 Freaks