A few weeks ago, we checked out a movie called APParition which incorporates modern day tech into its storyline to help drive its story. COUNTDOWN is another movie along the same style, and when it hit theaters last October, it actually did pretty good in the box office. October is always such a busy month around here, so this one slipped through our claws, but we finally got a chance to check the movie out and I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised at how it turned out! Honestly, the trailer made it look like your typical, modern day Hollywood horror that appeals more so to the masses than to serious horror nerds; that may be a part of the reason it wasn't near the top of our must-see films for the spookiest season of the year. After finally getting to dedicate a night to it, Countdown actually turned out to be way less cringy and lame than I imagined it would be; another reason not to take Rotten Tomatoes scores so damn seriously and to watch things for yourself. The film was written and directed by Justin Dec, and as his debut feature film, it honestly has me curious to see what Dec has coming up next in the genre, because there's definitely potential for him to make a solid name for himself if the quality of films he pushes out remains the way it did for this movie. While Countdown may look like a made-for-teenybopper horror flick, it's got some great elements, surprises, and scenes that - while they may not scream award winning - will at least get a smile out of you.
The concept for Countdown is a pretty basic one: users download an app of the same name, boot it up, accept the terms and conditions, and the app tells them how much time they have left to life, down to the second. The app follows you from phone to phone, not letting users uninstall it, and breaking the user agreement has fatal consequences. Such is the story of Quinn Harris (played by Elizabeth Lail) - a beautiful, young nurse who is introduced to the Countdown app by a patient who comes into the hospital worried that the clock on his girlfriends phone led to her death, and that his clock will do the same. He confides this in Quinn, who ends up downloading the app only to find out she only has three days left to life. Shaken up, she continues on about her life until things that taking spooky, frightening twists and turns that lead her to believe the clock may actually be accurate, and that it is driven by unholy forces beyond human control! Quinn - along with a few friends she picks up along the way - join forces with a hilarious priest named Father John (played by P. J. Byrne) and together, they attempt to beat the clock, assuming surviving just one second past the 0:00 hour will put an end to the curse. Will they survive, or will the their clock strike DEATH?!
Like I said, pretty straight-forward story that is wildly entertaining, even if it does cross into the demon theme out of nowhere! The app immediately reminded me of the old, beloved website Death Clock which anyone around my age should remember (and yes, it's still up!). I love that the countdown is literally all the app is, there's nothing extra to it; it's adds to the mysterious-yet-bogus element to it. Little do they know that the clock summons all sort of evil and causes some pretty brutal kills! While Countdown isn't exactly gory or heavily violent, it's not without its shocking thrills and kills that really help give the film a little extra awesome. What really makes this film complete, for my at least, is the appearance of the demon/grim reaper that haunts the apps users. Appearing in various forms - namely as deceased loved ones and as a demon out of hell - the beast has an incredible final form to it that is terrifying and brutal. I loved it, and thought it had just the right amount of on-screen time without overkilling it. The subtle terror in the film is when the demon appears as Quinn's deceased mother (who Quinn feels responsible for) and as Quinn's new friends brother. She ends up meeting fellow app user Matt (played by Jordan Calloway), and they team up to attempt to beat the clock together. Matt's younger brother passed away when they were kids, and of course, the demon haunts him in shape of his brother. Those hauntings may be worse than when the demon appears in its true form. But it made for some excellent storytelling, that's for sure.
Speaking of the cast, the acting felt totally authentic and professional - nothing cheesy or over-the-top in that regard. Lail and Calloway make an excellent team, and along with the rest of the cast, did a great job playing out their roles. While their terror probably won't gain them any notoriority, it is far from bad acting and lame portrayals. Even Bryne's role and Talitha Bateman, who plays Quinn's younger sister, play their roles appropriately - but I gotta admit, Bryne's character Father John totally steals the show for me personally, just because he's such a funny character. Not trying to take anything away from the film, but a few elements of the movie such as the score, cinematography and the location don't really create anything memorable once the credits roll. The effects, though - namely in the form of the appearance of the demon - look pretty top quality, not over-produced or awful looking at all. The demon easily blends into the film and feels like its presence is totally natural, which is exactly what you would want with a movie like this. Credit has to go to the effects team for a great job done with that.
Countdown totally crushed my (admittedly low) expectations for being nothing more than a jumpscare thriller meant to keep twelve year olds up at night. It's not a cheap attempt to ride the curtails of Halloween, it's actually a decently put together story and film, and was worth the $4.99 rental price of Google Play and the hour and a half of my time. Entertaining, fun and has enough to make it worth the watch if you're into movies like this one. Check it out!