What if an app could tell you when you were going to die? That’s the central conceit of STX Entertainment’s Countdown and it pretty much delivers on that question in the laziest way possible.
A movie about an app?
Yes, the concept is inherently silly, but then again, wasn’t just about nearly every episode of The Twilight Zone? Aren’t most horror films a little silly? While yes, horror, by and large, has its fair number of ridiculous premises, Countdown is certainly among them.
Countdown follows a young nurse named Quinn who downloads the “Countdown” app to her phone after meeting someone who lost his girlfriend who had just downloaded the app. It turns out that for most users, the app is generous, granting bounties of 30 to 50 years of time. Not poor Quinn, however. She discovers that she only has three days to live, and the clock is ticking.
Countdown is an STX Entertainment project. The film is written and directed by Justin Dec in his first full-length feature debut. The film stars Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, and Talitha Bateman. It also features P. J. Byrne, Tom Segura, and Peter Facinelli. The film clocks in at about 90 minutes, though that is probably twice the length it should have been.
What worked about Countdown?
Countdown does not have a lot going for it. The demonic entity introduced in the narrative is novel enough. It doesn’t seem to be referencing any recorded demons. This isn’t a spoiler, either. The app icon and the trailers clearly give away demonic influence. In truth, the demon isn’t all that creepy, either. It’s more the novelty of a demon learning to code, in Latin of all things, that feels interesting (and again, a little silly).
There is a germ of a good idea in this movie, but not one that supports a 90-minute film. I came out of the theater thinking about how this movie, with some obvious tweaks, would have made for a pretty solid anthology episode. The idea of the devil updating his method of collecting souls seems like fertile enough ground in better hands.
What didn’t work?
The film really isn’t that scary, at all. There are a fair number of percussive jump scares that sent the teenage girls in the theater to screaming fits. But jump scares are easy, they’re the equivalent of a stranger coming up behind you and shouting in your ear. Even then, this film implements them poorly, with nearly every moment telegraphed enough for any casual horror viewer to be aware of their coming.
I can’t really even recommend any performances in the film either. It’s all so very bland. Perhaps with a better story, the actors would have had more to work towards, but as it stands, there isn’t a whole Hell of a lot the performances offer. There are some particularly strange and lazy choices with some side-character, mainly a phone-repair guy and a demon-obsessed priest that come off as one-note gags. It’d be fine if the gags were actually funny.
As a whole, the film just feels lazy. The jump scares are tedious, and the film doesn’t really even present an interesting moral-quandary until the final 15 minutes. Had the film maybe went to that well of trying to cheat death, ala Final Destination, a little earlier, and what that would entail, there could have been some solid social satire.
Countdown is not a great movie though neither is it offensively bad. It’s a movie; it has the structure of elements needed to be a movie, but it does nothing exceptional with them. Worst of all, though, the film is often lazy. It’ll be a decent time-waster on Netflix or Shudder, I suppose.(2 / 5)
What did you think of Countdown? Share your thoughts with us here at Haunted MTL.