COUNTDOWN

Some ideas for movies just simply don’t work as feature length stories. Sure, an idea may sound unique and novel, but when it literally doesn’t go past the concept, what’s the point? I get that we watch movies to escape into fictional worlds where the impossible can happen, but the impossible is only as interesting as the story surrounding it. The idea may sound good at first, but after further analysis, maybe it’s best to just let it reside in the brain. 

Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail) is a newly registered nurse who has a strained relationship with her father Charlie (Matt Letscher) and younger sister Jordan (Talitha Bateman) after her mother’s death. When Quinn downloads the popular new Countdown app, an app that predicts how long you have left to live, she’s only given 72 hours before she apparently kicks the bucket. Desperate to save her own life, she investigates the origins of the app and meets up with other potential victims to stop it for good. 

You know what is scary? Knowing when you’re going to die. That would immediately be anxiety inducing, especially if it’s in such a short time frame. What’s going to kill you? How? Will it be painful? It’s a terrifying concept. You know what isn’t scary? A phone app that’s possessed by an ancient demon to kill people. This is one of the most laughable attempts at a horror film I’ve seen in a long time. Since the villain is literally just an app, there’s not much for it to do. Every time the characters try to circumvent their impending doom, a notification pops up saying “USER AGREEMENT BROKEN”. Oh no! The only thing remotely frightening the app does is play obnoxious sounds that harass its victims each minute before their death. Other than that, it’s just a bunch of people running around with their phones beeping at them. It all results in stuff we’ve seen before, with spooky figures in the shadows, gross out body horror, and a loud, CGI laden ending that felt right out of a Conjuring film. Whenever I was supposed to be scared, I just ended up laughing. 

But hey, at least there was some entertainment value there, as the rest of isn’t just not scary, but worse, boring. With a ludicrous concept and complete lack of scares or tension, a solid story could have kept this afloat. The emotional core is supposed to be Quinn dealing with her mother’s death and fixing the relationship with her younger sister, but there’s hardly a shred of development for it, as we need to go through the banal horror sequences and exposition. The way they resolve the story was actually pretty creative, but I felt no emotional connection to anything. It didn’t help that the acting was pretty awful across the board, save for our lead Elizabeth Lail, who does her best job to carry the film. You can only do so much with a poor script, though. All she really does is go from location to location and meeting new characters who are introduced simply to die or move the plot along. They also sometimes have the power of teleportation, as they’re able to be exactly where they need to be at all times, even if it makes literally no sense. Writer/director Justin Dec has a history of only short films before Countdown, and perhaps this concept would have worked better when it’s not stretched so thin. It definitely would have helped with making the tone more consistent, with some scenes feeling like they’re out of a knock-off Judd Apatow film. It all looks and feels like a student film, with flat cinematography, poor lighting, and one shot even being somewhat out of focus! 

Countdown is an incredibly stupid film that doesn’t work as a horror movie, or even just a movie at all. Aside from the concept, which is really just a variation on the whole “protagonist has x amount of time to save themselves from dying”, a la Drag Me to Hell, there’s no originality, creativity, or fun to be found. In an ironic twist, a movie all about smart phones makes us all want to pull them out to at least give us some sort of stimulation, because the movie sure ain’t doing it. 

2.5/10

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