It took a while, but it looks like we’re finally getting the killer smartphone app horror movie we’ve been waiting for. Okay, so maybe I’m being a little facetious, but with a movie like “Countdown” it’s kind of hard not to be. It’s one of those films that easily belongs on the more absurd side of the horror genre.
The idea is that a smartphone app called Countdown claims to be able to predict the date and time of your death right down to the second. Of course it instantly becomes popular with droves of unwitting teens, twenty-somethings and other soon-to-be killer fodder. The prologue starts it up with a group of partying kids downloading Countdown as part of their drinking game. Needless to say the app proves to be deadly accurate (see what I did there).
The movie then pivots to a nursing intern named Quinn (Elizabeth Lail). She and her co-workers jokingly download the app which gives her only three days left to live. She’s quick to dismiss it at first but several things change her mind namely terrifying visions that seem to be foreshadowing her impending demise. Well, they’re terrifying to her. For us they are simply a collection of tried-and-not-so-true jump scares.
Quinn tries the obvious, deleting the app, but with no success. And somehow buying a new phone through a new service provider doesn’t work (I still haven’t figured out the silly rules behind that one). As she slowly unravels she meets Matt (Jordan Calloway) who is trying to escape the same fate and she learns her sister (Talitha Bateman) is in the same boat.
“Countdown” is written and directed by Boston native Justin Dec whose previous credits include several film shorts and a web series. Here he tries to compensate for the rather lightweight horror by cramming in a half-baked workplace sexual harassment storyline and some old family baggage neither of which is all that compelling. Even with those things the characters are paper-thin andgeneric. The worst is a priest (P. J. Byrne) Quinn seeks out for help. He may be the worst character you see in a film this year.
Remember the 2017 film “Happy Death Day”? It was a horror movie built on a wacky premise but with plenty of self-awareness and black comedy to make it a lot of fun. “Countdown” could have worked if it had done something similar. Instead it takes an even more preposterous premise and gives it the super-serious treatment from the start all the way through its cheap sequel tease at the end. But if nothing else at least it instills one piece of life-changing wisdom to smartphone owners everywhere – ALWAYS read the user agreement!
VERDICT – 1.5 STARS