It's a film about an app that tells you when you're going to die. By rights, it should be awful. And yet...by Caspar Salmon / October 28, 2019 / Leave a comment
Transparently emanating from a desperate late-night brainstorm sesh, Countdown tells the story of some young people who download an app that, like, tells you when you’re going to die? The briskness with which the film goes about the process of setting up that ludicrous premise is stunning: the opening scene takes place at a party where a bunch of youths come across the application, quickly work out what it means, and are spooked out when it tells one of them that she will die that evening. All of this happens within the first minute, pretty much, because delusions of grandeur are not foremost among Countdown’s faults. The film is adorably aware of its reduced means and ambitions and gets the job done in a sweet 90 minutes.
A cheap and cheerful comedy-horror is the order of the day, then, for this movie that works in the vein of Scream and the Final Destination films, but with a smaller budget and a wobbly tilt towards the supernatural. Elizabeth Lail—best known as Guinevere ‘Beck’ Beck from the Netflix series You—gamely plays Quinn Harris, a young nurse who notices that a patient of hers owns the Countdown application. When he meets a sticky end, she soon realises that the app actually delivers death to certain unfortunates who download it, and, in a twist that nobody could have foreseen, is disturbed to see that she herself has barely two days left to live.
Quinn teams up with Matt (Jordan Calloway), a young man who has also been given a brief remaining lifespan, to try and work out how to defeat the app’s still very indeterminate curse. Hijinks, jump scares and a great deal of silliness ensue, culminating in a ropey confrontation at the hospital, where Quinn realises she must fight to save her younger sister.
At its worst, Countdown is completely stupid, while at its best it is endearingly silly. In the latter mode, the film manages to wring some laughs from its goofy set-up, and also has some genuinely effective scares up its sleeve. Director Justin Dec is efficient at the business of making his audience jump, building up atmosphere convincingly and then mixing up his effects and camera angles so as to keep the scares fresh and hard to second-guess. At the same time, the film is enjoyably upbeat, even veering into ‘romp’ territory on occasion.…