‘Countdown’, directed by first-time filmmaker Justin Dec, is a horror movie built around an app that can accurately predict when the user will die. But what happens when that death is set to come sooner rather than later?
New nurse, Quinn (Elizabeth Lail, ‘You’), makes the dummy-in-a-horror-movie choice to download it, after one of her patients tells her about having downloaded it and then dies right on schedule. She does some research and discovers that the same thing has happened to others, and according to the Countdown app, she is set to die in a couple of days. The app conveys the same message to handsome stranger Matt (Jordan Calloway, ‘Black Lightning’) and to Quinn’s teenage sister Jordan (Talitha Eliana Bateman).
This being a PG-13 horror movie, it plays similarly to Blumhouse flicks like ‘Happy Death Day’, another movie about a pretty young woman being stalked. Because the Countdown app is supernatural in nature, a grim reaper-looking ghoul stalks these victims to ensure that they meet their fate as scheduled. This hooded creep provides the majority of the scares in ‘Countdown’. There’s no gore, so ‘Countdown’ makes up for that with jump-scares, and there are plenty of those.
The film attempts to slide in a few laughs, mostly courtesy of Tom Segura as a mobile phone dealer, and P.J. Byrne as dorky tattooed priest Father John, but it kind of falls flat.
This movie is an efficient 90-minutes long, and it makes good use of that. There aren’t many wasted moments. Certain events or conversations that may seem meaningless wind up coming into play at later points. The plan to beat the app is kind of nonsense, and after it doesn’t work (because of course it doesn’t), the characters have to improvise. That’s where it gets pretty sloppy. But it never really drags, so that’s good.
The directing is solid and straightforward, almost to the point of being predictable. You know where to look at all times, like if someone walks past a doorway, you know there’s a spectre hiding there, waiting to move when the person looks away.
There is one inexplicable scene, when Quinn and Matt go to the hospital on her day off. Just as they are about to leave, Quinn is pulled into a meeting with her boss, Peter Facinelli’s skeevy Dr. Sullivan, and the heads of the hospital and human resources. Those sound like pretty demanding jobs. Arranging a meeting with them all sounds like a logistical headache. So why would they all be gathered for a meeting with Quinn on her day off? Were they just hoping she would show? How long were they waiting? Did they just say “screw it” to running the hospital that day?
‘Countdown’ is fine. It’s not innovative in any way, but it’s entertaining enough, loaded with jump scares, and ultimately everything makes sense. So if you just want a decent scary movie to get you in the Halloween mood, this one works just fine.