Film Review: ‘Countdown’

A movie about killer app.

The horror movie genre is one of those unique genres that as things change it changes as well. Through the last couple decades we have gotten movies about cellphones, video games and even social media.  “Countdown” gives a different take, a movie focused on a smart phone application.  At its premise the idea the seemed interesting but its execution leaves you scratching your head.  In a genre where the “jump scare” is your most important currency.  “Countdown” is mind-numbing new chiller that should have been called “Killer App”. As bad as this movie is, it won’t stop writer-director Justin Hec’s debut feature from pulling in moderately decent profit as it opens the weekend as the only horror before Halloween. But making a movie about death by phone shouldn’t have been something so lacking tack or style it might as well be watched on smart phone. The plot is really basic here:  A random app brought up by guests at a party (which honestly should have been a Halloween party) informs people when you die. Yes folk, it predicts when you does up to the very second. What it doesn’t mention is that if you attempt to alter your fate a spirit will haunt you and ensure you don’t miss the death date.

The death app begins taking its first victim within moments of the movies beginning, un-named teen (Anne Winters) who successfully avoids her boyfriend’s (Dillon Lane) DUI crash (BTW he wasn’t taken into custody). Yet she suffers an in-explicable demise in the supposed safety of her own bathroom anyway, right on schedule. I immediately warned what the cause of death was on the ME report. The same boyfriend lands in a hospital, where he spooky tale is relates to staff to new RN Quinn (Elizabeth Lail).  Like in all horror movies when less than believable plots She’s skeptical that’s until he mysteriously dies in a stairwell, and her own alleged upcoming death is not a joke. She soon learns that once downloaded, the “Courtdown” app can’t be deleted. To add insult to injury  it sends periodic (demonically annoying) heckling alerts that your time of death is near. Quinn learns if you try to cheat mortality by changing your plans (say, canceling a road trip or train ride), then demon haunting the application will come for you, with flickering lights, sudden shadowy bogeyman appearances, and so many jump scares.

The death app begins taking its first victim within moments of the movies beginning, un-named teen (Anne Winters) who successfully avoids her boyfriend’s (Dillon Lane) DUI crash (BTW he wasn’t taken into custody). Yet she suffers an in-explicable demise in the supposed safety of her own bathroom anyway, right on schedule. I immediately warned what the cause of death was on the ME report. The same boyfriend lands in a hospital, where he spooky tale is relates to staff to new RN Quinn (Elizabeth Lail).  Like in all horror movies when less than believable plots She’s skeptical that’s until he mysteriously dies in a stairwell, and her own alleged upcoming death is not a joke. She soon learns that once downloaded, the “Courtdown” app can’t be deleted. To add insult to injury  it sends periodic (demonically annoying) heckling alerts that your time of death is near. Quinn learns if you try to cheat mortality by changing your plans (say, canceling a road trip or train ride), then demon haunting the application will come for you, with flickering lights, sudden shadowy bogeyman appearances, and so many jump scares.

Quinn is quickly (although poorly shoehorned in) joined in her plight by teenage sibling Jordan (Talitha Bateman), as well as also shoehorned handsome stranger Matt (Jordan Calloway). All three share something beyond cause for immediate panic: Guilt over a loved one’s prior demise (another plot devices shoe horned) , in his case a little brother’s, in theirs a mother whose car-wreck death both sisters feel responsible for.

Just why this would make one more susceptible to the deadly Countdown app is anyone’s guess, since Dec’s script doesn’t bother explaining or even establishing rules or backstory for his central menace. A priest (P.J. Byrne) decides it’s a “curse” caused by demons or something but then, his irksome comedy-relief figure isn’t credible as a cleric, let alone as an expert on supernatural evil. Also not making much sense is the eventual notion that another party might be substituted for an anticipated corpse, though that does allow potential justice to be served to Quinn’s sexually harassing hospital superior Dr. Sullivan (Peter Facinelli). Yes you read that correctly this story had a thrown in yet completely unnecessary sexual harassment subplot that honestly just made the movie seem desperate.  

Ultimately “Countdown is just forcibly paced 90 mins of uninspired jump scares and plot that honestly would distract the most dedicated jump scare fan.  No real explanation just jump scares and an exceptionally grabby demon makes this thriller a snooze fest at its core.

I give “Countdown”  1 out of 5 jump scares.

Film Review: ‘Countdown’

Reviewed at White marsh theatre, Oct. 23, 2019. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 90 MIN.

PRODUCTION: An STX Entertainment release of a STXfilms presentation of a Wrigley Pictures, Two Grown Men, BSFG production. Producers: John Rickard, Zack Schiller, John Morris, Sean Anders. Executive producers: Robert Simonds, Adam Fogelson, Gregory Plotkin, Tyler Zacharia, Alex Boies, Matthew Medlin. Co-producers: Max Jacoby, Devin Andre, Nicolas Harvard.

CREW: Director, writer: Justin Dec. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Maxime Alexandre. Editor: Brad Wilhite. Music: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans.

WITH: Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, Talitha Bateman, Tichina Arnold, PJ Byrne, Peter Facinelli, Dillon Lane, Matt Letscher, Valente Rodriguez, Tom Segura, Anne Winters.

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