Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 28, 2020)
If given the chance to know the time of your own demise in advance, would you take it? That becomes the premise of 2019’s Countdown.
At a party, teen Courtney (Anne Winters) and her pals all download “Countdown”, an app that offers a running clock toward your demise. Most view this as a goofy lark, but since her timer allows Courtney only three hours, she feels unnerved.
When her intoxicated boyfriend Evan (Dillon Lane) tries to drive her home, Courtney refuses, as she fears his inebriated state will prove the accuracy of the app. This doesn’t help, as Courtney dies via alternate methods exactly when the program predicted.
In addition, Evan crashes his car at the same moment, and a tree punctures the seat where Courtney would’ve been. This spooks an injured, hospitalized Evan, especially because his timer claims he’ll die during surgery.
Evan pleads his case to young nurse Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail), and she ends up with the app as well. Evan tries to flee but he still dies at the predicted time.
In the face of this, Quinn fears for her own life and pursues ways to subvert fate. She deals with a rapidly ticking clock, as the app states she’ll perish in a short period of time.
If you ever saw Final Destination or its many sequels, the plot of Countdown probably sounds familiar. Toss in a few twists and this movie offers a similar theme and arc.
Though Countdown’s plagiarism doesn’t end there, as you’ll see fragments of other horror flicks as well. In particular, the danger that confronts the characters feels borrowed from The Ring franchise.
As I often say, a movie doesn’t need to be original to be entertaining. Despite all these obvious influences, does Countdown manage to deliver a compelling horror tale?
Nope. While a painless way to spend 91 minutes, the film tends toward the trite, predictable side of the street and lacks much to make it work.
Like too many modern horror movies, Countdown relies largely on jump scares to provoke a reaction from the audience. Every once in a while, we get a scene with the potential to inspire genuine dread, but the filmmakers then shoot themselves in the foot with the standard cheap “boo” moments.
For instance, one scene cleverly uses a motion-activated nightlight to set up a scary confrontation. While this segment builds some tension, it undercuts the ultimate impact because it winds up with more of the same tacky nonsense that it relies on the rest of the time.
Really, a lack of cleverness becomes the movie’s biggest issue. Countdown feels like a premise with a film attached.
I get the sense that once the creators came up with the basic idea, they called it a day and didn’t bother to figure out much else. The script feels sluggish and lazy, as it tacks one-dimensional elements onto its characters and never manages a sense of reality or depth.
At least the actors seem committed, and the movie manages to produce a few intentional laughs along the way. PJ Byrne gives the movie a shot in the arm as a kooky priest, and as a sleazy tech storeowner, Tom Segura brings slimy comedy.
Though they add entertainment value, they can’t save this fairly stale project. While the movie goes down effortlessly enough, it never threatens to become anything more than mediocre “PG-13” horror.
Footnote: a tag scene appears early in the end credits.