by Adam Riske
Dating back a few years, I was over the moon for bad teen horror movies like Wish Upon or The Bye Bye Man. I couldn’t muster up the same enthusiasm for Countdown even though I know it’s my brand to do so. I don’t think I’ve matured or anything like that (and I still love Wish Upon), but the thing with Countdown is that it never feels like a movie where anyone is trying. When I saw the trailer and learned that the premise was about a phone app that tells you the exact moment you’re going to die, I sank a little because it felt cynical. This is a movie that’s intentionally dumb (so teens can poke fun at it) released to make pre-Halloween dollars before evaporating from everyone’s memory on November 1st. I don’t believe the studio or filmmakers really cared about bringing Countdown to the screen, so seeing it and reviewing it is a bummer for me.
Nothing in Countdown really works. The leads (played by Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, and Talitha Bateman) are pleasant and play the material straight, so they come off best. There’s a subplot involving a young nurse (Lail) being sexually harassed by a doctor (Peter Facinelli) that Countdown spends way too much time on and doesn’t have any interest in addressing seriously. The movie has nothing to say about phone technology or apps when it easily could have. How about “We’re watching our lives tick away looking at our phones.” Nope. How about someone dying by getting into a car accident while looking at the Countdown app on their phone? Nope. How about someone having an accident looking at their phone when they should be paying attention in a crosswalk? Nope. The movie isn’t even clever as a Final Destination/Drag Me to Hell ripoff. The first few victims are literally killed by being picked up in the air and dropped on their head. Also, there’s a Countdown demon. Not surprising since these movies always have an apparition for a villain. This one looks like a dummy you buy at Spirit Halloween draped over with a couch blanket. Cool!