Countdown stars Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, and Talitha Bateman and was directed by Justin Dec. It tells the story of Quinn, a nurse played by Elizabeth Lail, who after downloading the mysterious Countdown app, discovers she has less than three days to live. As time ticks down, she soon realizes there’s more to the app than she initially thought and a race against time and fate ensues. We seem to get at least one movie like this every year. A gimmicky technology horror film that uses cellphones or social media to propel a pretty generic supernatural plot. Unfriended, Friend Request, and even last year’s Truth or Dare all follow this basic idea and now Countdown has joined their ranks. Based on the trailer, that was certainly not a surprise to me.
I knew going in exactly what type of movie this would be and so I wasn’t really disappointed by it. In fact, if I’m being completely honest, this was a bit better than I thought it would be. Still not good, mind you, but better than anticipated. One of the problems with these types of movies is how out-of-touch they feel. Yeah, they’re using the latest technology and social media in the film, but it always feels so unnatural like a committee of people who don’t use smart phones wrote it. These movies always focus on groups of teenagers who constantly make the dumbest decisions and are just really unlikable. Countdown has a bit of that, but our main character is actually a bit older, so it was nice to not have subplots of high school or college drama. The subplots it did have were a little overdone and never really resolved, but they were still better than the usual teen drama we get from horror movies like this. Despite that small respite from typical gimmicky horror movie genericism, Countdown still manages to do just about everything else the same.
The characters make a lot of stupid decisions, including their constant compulsion to walk towards the creepy things happening in dark rooms. This movie’s also completely overloaded with jump scares. I don’t mind a jump scare or two, but they’re really the only source of scares in this which just feels extremely unearned. Another trend I’ve been seeing in horror movies lately, which unfortunately crops up here too, is an overabundance of dropped subplots and minor characters. So much time and focus are devoted to a handful of plot threads and people only to be abruptly dropped the moment they move the plot along, never to be seen or mentioned again.
It’s just sloppy writing. So is Countdown the horror travesty of the year? No. Is it worthy of being the only new horror movie released during Halloween week? Also no. Countdown is exactly what you expect it to be, nothing more, nothing less. It’s certainly not the hidden horror gem of the year, but it’s not laughably bad either. I think it’s a subpar movie, but the crowd I saw it with seemed to have a pretty good time with it. other than the girl in the row in front of me who, ironically, was on her phone the entire time. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons.
The movie’s only real pro is its premise. Now I know it sounds really dumb at first; a horror movie about an app that can predict the time of your death. But when you think about it, that idea really has some potential. I remember back when I was in junior high, back in the olden days before apps and smartphones, there used to be this website (I think called The Death Clock) that provided a similar service. Equally as dumb, but it was fun at sleepovers.
The whole idea of knowing the time of your death presents an interesting question and dilemma. It’s just that they explore it in the most predictable and generic way here there’s hints of Final Desintation-ish fate, but it’s just not ever really expanded on. On the con side, my biggest issue was the dependence on jump scares. Like I said, I’m not an anti-jump scare person. I just want the movie to have something other than the jump scares. And they’re not even earned ones here. They’re the kind that have just become so clichÈ for this type of movie. You know the ones. Characters in a dark location, the music drops out, and then suddenly quick editing flashes a scary image on screen for a second while blasting music and screams. It’s a jump startle, not a jump scare.
I guess it’s tough with a movie like this cause you can’t really build tension like you would in any other movie. By having a literal countdown for a character’s death, you know they’re safe until that countdown runs out and so you can never get that same anxious build-up until their final moments. The next con has gotta be the subplots. Not only are the vast majority of them unnecessary and dull, but they don’t wrap-up in any meaningful way, so we’re left wondering about certain characters and events who play an integral role in the plot for a few minutes and then are never mentioned again. I can understand wanting to provide some backstory and characterization for your characters in a horror movie, but they just don’t achieve their goal here.
There’s a whole subplot involving se*ual harassment at our main character’s workplace that gets a lot of time devoted to it. Seems to indicate that that’s gonna have a big part in the central plot, right? Nope. The finale almost makes that subplot have purpose, but in the end, doesn’t at all. So it doesn’t advance the plot, it doesn’t tell us anything about our main character we can’t already figure out it’s really just a big waste of time in an already extremely short movie.
I’m gonna give Countdown 2 out of 5 paws. It has a semi-interesting premise and does approach a few moments a bit unexpectedly, but for the most part, it’s like the countless generic technology horror movies we’ve seen before. I would recommend Countdown only to people who like generic teen horror movies. I know that sounds a bit negative, but if the horror movies full of really dumb character choices and predictable plots are what you like, then you’ll like this one too.
The characters are a little older and there’s no teen drama, but everything else is about the same. If you liked Countdown, I’d recommend Final Destination for another horror film that explores the inescapability of fate. If you want another movie that involves a death countdown of sorts, I’d suggest you check out The Ring.
It too uses on a piece of technology to deliver its curse just something a little bit more archaic now: a VHS tape. And if you just want another recent teen technology horror, you might like Friend Request. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen Countdown? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: If the Countdown app was real, would you want to know how much longer you have to live? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.