Countdown (Movie Review)

Adam's rating: ★ Director: Justin Dec | Release Date: 2019

When you walk into a film with an app that kills people, a person might ask, “Well, what did you expect?” Assumed mediocrity cuts both ways. Some may forgive this film for its poor quality based on its premise and remark that it achieves its purpose. Others may be harsh on every aspect of the film for daring to exist. Unfortunately for me, this aptly named film was a count down until I could turn it off. 


Countdown begins on a college party where a table of young people are drinking beer and discussing calorie-counting apps and vegans posting their food online; a normal discussion written by a person that understands parties and Gen Zs. This “organically” introduces our killer app. An uninteresting death by a party attendee leads to our protagonist, nurse Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail) discovering the eponymous app, “Countdown.” She finds out that she only has three days to live and breaches her contract by trying to prevent her own death. But can she survive to likely get killed in a sequel?


This is writer/director Justin Dec’s first feature film. He stated in interviews that the genesis of the film is a combination of seeing a timer and thinking about it counting down to his death and hearing the song Purple People Eater (written in 1958 by Sheb Wooley). Those are the actual inspirations cited for this film’s premise. Combining technology with the supernatural is a fine line to walk, and Dec noted that he wanted to avoid making a film like the killer phone joke from Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008). He was so close and yet so far away from being self-aware.


This film’s tone should be treated for CTE as it whiplashed between the ridiculousness of a killer app making haunted house sound effects before you die and a serious subplot involving workplace harassment and victim-blaming by an institution. Had the film dealt with its absurd subject matter in a buoyant manner like Happy Death Day (2017), the pithy side characters may have worked, but instead they were faint bright spots in a sucking void of interest. I doubt the studio cared, as this film made $40 million on a $6.5 million budget (Happy Death Day only made $175 million on a $4.8 million budget...oh).


To say the scares were recycled from other films is disingenuous. Much like recyclables, these jump scares were thrown in a landfill and after years of degrading were dumped onto the screen. My friend reacted with shock when ONE of the visuals was slightly original. A lot of the shot composition attempts to create tension, but then the audience is wrenched out of immersion by the bland nonsensical demon kills. Your premise already seems eerily like Final Destination (2000); why not go full hog and have the demon explore its environment with elaborate executions? Legendary special effects house KNB did the creature effects and if you lined up the creature with a series of Halloween masks, I would have a random chance of picking it out. 


Let’s end positively. This picture delivers what is generally expected from it. Several of the actors sell the hokey dialogue they were given. The story sets up and pays off its Chekhov’s guns. The contract in the film is a legitimate contract, although it would be void for public policy; it has an awful exclusionary clause that would fail, and the company could be sued to all hell—pun intended. There was also a savvy promotional tie-in where you can actually download the app and post your countdown to twitter, because everyone loves morbid marketing.

In summation, if you have an hour and a half left to live… then choose another movie. I give this app (I mean film) a 2/10; it would not stop crashing.


Contributor/Actual Lawyer

Adam is a lawyer from Nova Scotia, Canada... that place above Maine beside Anne of Green Gables’ house. He hosts a deplorable show examining the law in sci-fi films called the "Space Lawyers Podcast". Adam enjoys the finer things in life such as "so bad they are good" films (see Leprechaun 4: In Space), pestiferous puns, and his collection of over 365 bowties.

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