Combustible Celluloid
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With: Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, Talitha Eliana Bateman, Peter Facinelli, Dillon Lane, Tichina Arnold, Tom Segura, Lana McKissack, Anne Winters, Matt Letscher, P.J. Byrne, Valente Rodriguez, Louisa Abernathy
Written by: Justin Dec
Directed by: Justin Dec
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror, violence, bloody images, suggestive material, language and thematic elements
Running Time: 90
Date: 10/25/2019

Countdown (2019)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Clock Crock

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Despite a few mildly amusing scenes of comic relief, this horror movie otherwise offers little more than a pastiche of ideas borrowed from other horror movies, and a batch of flat, dull characters.

In Countdown, a group of teens at a party stumble upon an app called "Countdown" that predicts the exact moment of a user's death. One teen girl is warned that she will die that night, and despite the fact that she avoids a ride with her drunk boyfriend, she still meets her end. The boyfriend dies in the hospital a few days later, but passes on knowledge of the app to the hospital staff, including Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail).

Quinn also receives the disturbing news that she will die in a couple of days. While trying to buy a new phone, she meets Matt (Jordan Calloway), who likewise has a very short lifespan. Together, the enlist the help of an obnoxious tech nerd and an enthusiastic priest to try to beat the powerful curse behind the app.

To start, Countdown doesn't really even discuss the idea of whether we as humans would want to know the exact time of our own death; the characters simply download the title app, as if on a lark. Death doesn't mean much here (and the characters aren't very smart). The terror cooked up by writer and director Justin Dec consists mainly of jump-scares or sudden, loud noises; it's more nerve-jangling than actually scary.

The phone store tech nerd (Tom Segura) and the priest (P.J. Byrne) offer a couple of laughs, but they feel misplaced due to the seriousness and shallowness of the rest of the movie. The scariest moments — usually involving mirrors or shadows — are clearly copied from better movies. Even the main idea was better used in the Final Destination movies, which were almost existential in their simplicity, and the Ring series, which had a much clearer, more terrifying idea.

Countdown actually comes closer to bad movies like Bedeviled (also about an evil app) and The Bye Bye Man, about curiosity leading to death. Like those, this movie will likely be forgotten, and that's something you can count on.

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