Review: Countdown (2019) Downloads Entertaining yet Tame Horror onto Streaming Platforms
On January 21st, streaming platforms were graced with the presence of Justin Dec’s Countdown (2019), which began its theatrical run in October of 2019. Countdown, starring Elizabeth Lail as Quinn, tells the story of a smartphone app that can predict when the user will die, aptly titled ‘Countdown’. Quinn is a nurse who downloads the app just before one of her patients dies after using it. With mere days before her impending demise, Quinn sets on a journey to liberate herself from the curse that lies within the code of the Countdown app. As a horror movie, Countdown does not offer anything new, yet still delivers enough B-movie shlock to be an entertaining and, at times, endearing entry into the horror universe.
What I appreciate so much about Countdown is its honesty. Countdown as a concept was created to get as many teenagers in the movie theater as possible and entertain them enough to stick it through the end. It is very clear that Dec knows his target audience and tailors his approach to horror accordingly. Humor is sprinkled heavily in between scares to lull the audience into complacency before the next sequence rolls along. I am a big fan of campy horror, especially for concept heavy movies, as an avenue to keep the horror light and fun which opens it up to more audiences while not compromising on vision. Lail carries the film competently and flexes her range to meet the needs of a familiar, yet likable protagonist. Quinn’s relationship with others feels real, particularly her complicated relationship with her sister and friendly, but distant relationship with her co-workers. In short, Quinn feels like a real person, albeit one we do not get to know very well, but real, nonetheless. Quinn’s appeal is essential for audiences to connect with and root for her throughout her ordeal.
Countdown does net more negatives than positives. While I found much of the humor and many of the gags welcome, it does wear thin in the film due to the tonal inconsistencies. One moment Countdown tackles #MeToo in the workplace, featuring Peter Facinelli as a progressively skeevy doctor, to meeting a priest, played by P.J Byrne, waiting for his Grub Hub to arrive after getting high in his church office. Both scenarios could be welcome in a film of this nature, but the coupling feels awkward at best and uncomfortable at worst. Countdown faces other issues largely due to its PG-13 rating. Scaling back on tension in favor of only mildly disturbing images, Countdown never really goes far enough to truly be a terrifying concept. Additionally, the humor does not transcend its target audience and does not make much effort to broaden its appeal to more mature audiences. It is evident that Dec tried to follow in the footsteps of previous films that showed restraint on gore in favor of truly frightening scenes but ultimately falls flat with every attempt at “scaring” the audience. In short, Countdown feels like a missed opportunity to take a fun and satirical approach to technology’s ever-growing hold on our lives.
Countdown’s lack of drive, for lack of ability or resources, ultimately hurts what could have been another Happy Death Day or The Babysitter. Regardless, Countdown is a fun and forgettable movie to watch with friends when you need a good laugh.
Overall Score? 5/10