There’s nothing terribly unpredictable about this – but that might not be a bad thing at all. Like Scream, Final Destination and any franchise with over 5 chapters, formulaic horror has an appeal of its own. Countdown has nothing of a reputation to bank on, but it follows a proven model and manages to get a few good scares in the mix.
Anticipation is half the fun, and Countdown gears the audience’s up with the premise of a countdown app that pronounces one’s time of death accurately. But what if you loaded that app to see that you had a few days or hours left to spare? Would you be worried?
Rather than a philosophical spin, director and writer Justin Dec weaves it into a tale of individuals who fight to stay alive against the clock – and possibly a supernatural entity who might be the Grim Reaper himself.
Elizabeth Lail is Quinn, an intern who just earned her badge to be a full-time nurse at the hospitable she’s working for. One of her patients, Evan (Dillon Lane) is more nervy than most others before surgery, and he reveals to Quinn that his girlfriend died tragically at the exact time the app predicted. What was careless dismissal turns into dread, especially when his is lined up just before his surgery.
Of course Quinn dismisses this, and as she shares this story, a small segment of the hospital staff downloads the app to take a peek at their longevity. Bad news for our nurse – she has less than three days on her clock. Although this doesn’t necessarily scare her, it does disturb her a little but she goes about her routine trying to stay cool.
Very soon, she experiences hauntings and sightings that nudges her into a believer. With the app’s authenticity established, the film focuses on her search for a way out, while throwing in side stories about her strained family relationship, and sexual harassment from a doctor at the hospital.
The film is no doubt inspired by our mobile lifestyle, riddled with apps that are as useful as they are insidious. It positions the use of apps as something we become complacent about, and how innocent programs can hide nefarious intentions (remember FaceApp?) and beguile us into releasing permissions we had no idea we were releasing. Very poignant point there. In this case, the poignant point is a demon that has caught up with the times.
Countdown does try to inject some rethinks. Tom Segura as Derek, the mobile store owner that helps to hack the app, is a riot to watch. His deadpan caustic narrative is straight out of Saturday Night Live. A tip – stay a little after the credits roll to see what happens to him.
Not as successful is the geek-hip Father John (P.J. Byrne). He tries to subvert conventions by being somewhat of a street-wise rogue priest, but his one-dimensional lines and calculated twists are more annoying than refreshing.
And lads would mostly like Quinn. Is it possible dear Dec has a thing for Jennifer Lawrence? The answer, is very. Not only does Lail exude JL vibes, Dec also had a short film titled Jennifer Lawrence is Coming in 2013. It’s certainly a pleasant recall.
So yes, if you’re a fan of the tension that comes from seeing people meet their death, then this relatively low key production will surprise you.
Entertaining romp as the bodycount piles up. Will they or won’t they? You never know who might break out the chain, especially when you’re not sure who your enemy might be.
First published: www.movieXclusive.com