'Countdown' is bad. But so much fun.
Release Date: October 25, 2019
MPAA Rating: PG-13
When a nurse downloads an app that claims to predict the moment a person will die, it tells her she only has three days to live. With the clock ticking and a figure haunting her, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.
Director: Justin Dec
Screenwriter: Justin Dec
Producers: Sean Anders, John Morris, John Rickard, Zack Schiller
Cast: Elizabeth Lail (Quinn Harris), Jordan Calloway (Matt Monroe), Talitha Bateman (Jordan Harris), Peter Facinelli (Dr. Sullivan), Tichina Arnold (Nurse Amy), Tom Segura (Derek), P.J. Byrne (Father John)
Cinematographer: Maxime Alexandre
Production Designer: Clayton Hartley
Casting Director: Rich Delia
Music Score: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans
Modern quickie horror movies can be either good or bad, but all is forgiven as long as they’re fun. Countdown is pretty bad. But, it’s also really fun.
Countdown is about a young nurse named Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail from the Lifetime/Netflix series “You”) who, along with a bunch of her friends and co-workers, downloads an app that supposedly can predict when the user is going to die. The app shows that all of her colleagues are going to live to ripe old ages, but when Quinn takes a look – it says she has less than three days.
Normally, she’d dismiss it as a creepy hoax, but one of her patients used the app…and died at the exact time that it predicted he would. In trying to figure a way out, Quinn meets another guy named Matt (Jordan Calloway from “Black Lightning”) who is in the same predicament. She also accidentally gets her little sister, Jordan (Talitha Bateman from Love, Simon), involved, so the stakes are heightened as the trio races against time to beat the curse of the Countdown App.
Countdown has a great concept, even if it will be woefully outdated by this time next year. Writer/director Justin Dec makes his feature film debut with this creepily clever little movie that asks the age-old question “if you could know when you were going to die, would you want to?” Of course, no one in the film takes it seriously, and why should they? It’s just a countdown clock app. But, once the user breaks the “user agreement” and starts being followed around by a relentless shadowy being, things get real.
Countdown is in no way a good movie. But it is a lot of fun. The seriousness of Quinn and Matt is overshadowed by the comic relief provided by a pair of their allies: a phone store tech named Derek (Instant Family’s Tom Segura) who talks about “jailbreaking the phones” and “hacking into the apps,” and a priest named Father John (P.J. Byrne from Final Destination 5) who is just really exited to have a case to work on that might actually involve real demons. These guys steal the show, and it’s a show that really needs to be stolen.
Countdown is one of those movies that gets so much wrong, but keeps the audience so giddy with nervous laughter that it doesn’t matter. Who cares if the movie doesn’t know what forms of ID are needed to fill out an I9 or what a birth certificate looks like. There’s a metaphoric ticking bomb, a barrage of ghostly visions, and a wild climax. Watch it in a group, and most of all, have fun with it.
Justin Dec pulls out every trick in the horror book for the scares in Countdown, and many of them are quite effective. The good ones are almost exclusively volume-based jump scares, but that’s fine. If it works, keep doing it. There’s some creep factor involved, and there’s just enough suspense to make the jump scares pop, particularly in the opening scene which introduces the audience to the app and the consequences of using it. The scares are cheap, but they will get the blood pumping. And, like the rest of the movie, the scares are best experienced with a crowd of friends. Laughter always feels best after a scream.