Movie review: Killer app film 'Countdown' isn't as bad as you think

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 27 2019 08:30 PM

A mobile phone app called "Countdown" rapidly became viral because it claimed to tell the exact amount of time down to the very second that someone had left to live. 

People thought this was all fun and games until their friends began dying on the exact time that the app predicted. Furthermore, if they try to change the circumstances which was supposed to cause their death, a demon will come and finish the job off. 

Nurse Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail), her younger sister Jordan (Talitha Bateman), and new friend Matt Monroe (Jordan Calloway) were all told by their respective Countdown apps that they barely had one day to live. 

They interview Fr. John (P.J. Byrne), a Catholic priest expert on curses and demons, in a desperate effort to break the curse of the app before their predicted time of death comes.

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Horror movies featuring its young adult characters dying off one by one had been a common sub-genre on its own. Perhaps beginning with "Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984), many neophyte young actors and actresses made their big-screen debuts as victims in films like "Scream" (1996), "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (1997), "Final Destination" (2000), and all their sequels. Recently, there had been films like "Cabin in the Woods" (2011), "It Follows" (2014), and "Truth or Dare" (2018). 

The premise of this new one was actually very interesting since it dealt with a piece of technology which we all had on hand -- our cell phones, with the myriad of apps we have on it. Once an app becomes viral, everyone wants to try it out, be they games or social media platforms. It is not impossible that an app that could predict one's exact moment of death could actually become viral in real life. As morbid as it sounds, people will be curious and find it fun, unmindful of the psychological torture of seeing the length of time you have left.

TV actors Elizabeth Lail (best known for her role in the stalker drama "You") and Jordan Calloway (from the cast of Nickelodeon sitcom "Unfabulous") make for attractive lead characters. The romance aspect between them seemed forced, but at the same time predictable. 

The film even tried to squeeze in a sexual harassment angle involving an extra-amorous doctor played by Peter Facinelli (known best for playing Dr. Carlisle Cullen in "Twilight"). The comic relief came mainly from the hyper-excitable Catholic priest and curse expert played by P.J. Byrne. 

Of course, there are the typical horror movie cliches like bravely venturing out into the dark, hiding under the bed covers, investigating strange noises in the closet, and more. 

However, that you can see exactly the countdown on how much time a character had left to live did give a sense of tension on how exactly he was going to die at that moment. The long suspenseful set-ups would suddenly end in a jump scare, most of which were startling. 

Being rated PG, the deaths were not graphically depicted. This was actually a fun watch, not as bad as you may think. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."