REVIEW: ‘Countdown’ is generic, hollow horror

What can’t movie demons possess at this point? In “Truth or Dare” one could possess a thought-process game among friends, and now one possesses an app.

The latest horror movie to hit the PG-13 market features a number of people discovering an app that can tell when a person is going to die, counting down everything from the years to the seconds. The app is a simple running clock, and many laugh it off as a joke.

However, that is until a few look at the phone and see they only have a few days or hours left. Sure enough, those people end up dying. After some deaths from the app early on, the character Quinn enters the mix. Played by Elizabeth Lail, Quinn is the main character and apparently is set to die in the next several days. Deciding to take action, she and another character, Matt (Jordan Calloway), try to figure out how to change fate.

“Countdown” feels very familiar. It’s mainly a lot of teen-horror tropes with a healthy sprinkle of “Final Destination.” When it comes to the latter, what made the “Final Destination” films somewhat watchable was the ambiguity, at most with a feeling of the universe trying to correct itself in a sense.

This movie on the other hand gets into convoluted territory with a story not only over-explaining the demon app, but having little in terms of continuity and consistency, too. Despite all of the demonology babble, though, the whole concept still comes across as under-cooked.

The film adds on some rather unnecessary sub-plots, too, making the movie come across as bloated despite its runtime. Plus, there’s a scene at the end setting up a sequel guaranteed to make an audience roll their eyes.

One aspect rather surprising about the movie is the low roster of main characters. In some ways, having only Quinn and Matt trying to survive makes for more time to focus on their plight, but on the other hand, it also kind of takes away from the countdown feel. Having more characters offed one-by-one would give more of a sense of the haunted app closing in.

In all fairness, though, Lail and Calloway are alright in their roles, considering it’s a lower budget horror flick. Lail is especially good in carrying the film as the main protagonist. Unfortunately, the writers decided to give their characters somewhat of a budding romance and it was so unnecessary.

Also unnecessary when it came to the characters was how a computer programmer (Tom Segura) and priest (P.J. Byrne) who give advice to the protagonist were written. Not only are these characters treated like complete jokes, but they also disappear at about the start of the third act and never show up again.

Most disappointing, though, is “Countdown” isn’t all too scary. Like most horrors of its kind, “Countdown” relies on a lot of jump scares and not much else. The movie doesn’t even really show the deaths in much detail, either, making it a rather empty horror feature.

“Countdown” is a simply a generic, forgettable thriller. It’s never atmospheric and doesn’t really offer anything fun or interesting with the app concept. 1.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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