COUNTDOWN Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by STX International
Written and directed by Justin Dec
2019, 90 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
October 25th, 2019
Elizabeth Lail as Quinn Harris
Jordan Calloway as Matt Monroe
Talitha Eliana Bateman as Jordan Harris
Peter Facinelli as Dr. Sullivan
P.J. Byrne as Father John
Tom Segura as Derek
Antisocial, Bedeviled and Killer App are just three films in the last two years to be focused on that distracting piece of tech in our pockets in a sub-genre that is fast becoming the new found-footage of horror.. or is it?
Countdown, starring Elizabeth Lail, is yet another film drawing on our societal and technological fears and based on an app that will eventually lead to your death. On paper it’s very likely to create a chorus of sighs and synchronised eye-rolls, however, what this film does differently is to take the quickly tiring premise and inject characterization, heart, culturally relevant subplots and genuine scares.
Quinn (Lail) is a nurse who, after a patient tells her a chilling story about his girlfriend’s demise, downloads a new app that claims to predict the very moment of the user's death. She is told she has only three days to live and so with the clock ticking she must find a way to save her life and the lives of her friends who face the same fate.
Taking inspiration from Final Destination, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Ring and countless teen horrors, Countdown manages to feel fresh and fun without wearing itself out after the first act. Make no mistake, this isn’t highly original horror-fare but it doesn’t hide behind its peers and instead wears their legacies proudly and sets out purely to entertain and scare you which, after all, is the whole reason you’re watching.
The cast is strong, led of course by You’s Elizabeth Lale who is backed up by Black Lightning’s Jordan Calloway who, like the rest of the cast, does a good job of going beyond standard horror-fodder and gives a nice humanity to his character.
Annabelle: Creation’s rising star Talitha Bateman is also very strong as Quinn’s little sister but the real scene-stealers are the rather eccentric priest, Father John, played by P.J. Byrne and deadpan mobile phone salesman and resident techy Derek played by comedian Tom Segura who both add real laughs.
The underappreciated Peter Facinelli, who is probably still sadly best known for The Twilight Saga, plays Dr. Sullivan and plays his role well in a sub-plot involving Quinn and a workplace sexual harassment case. These scenes really add to a film that, like a lot of good horror, deals with these societal and cultural subtexts and keeps them subtly bubbling under the surface of its high concept. Lail and Facinielli handle these scenes well and they add to the rising tension as the film builds and builds to its inevitable conclusion.
What also works well is the evil presence behind the app, which stalks its victims whilst the clock counts down and conjures up some really good jump scares. We’re not given too much, but do get enough of a glimpse, while still letting our imagination fill in a few blanks.
Although Countdown won’t be making many people’s top films of the year lists in a couple of months time it will at least be remembered as one of the few mainstream films of 2019 to actually deliver, dealing with loss and regret whilst serving up good scares, good characters we actually root for, and a premise that, while not breaking any new ground, does it better than the rest and even, dare I say it, could possibly be the start of a new franchise – as long as they manage to get Lail back as she is a shining star who deserves to be going onto bigger and better things.
Countdown definitely succeeds in the demonic mobile phone market, but the really scary realisation as you leave the cinema is that we all kind of sold our souls to Apple a long time ago already.
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