COUNTDOWN – Film Review

When a nurse named Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail) downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die, it tells her she only has three days to live. With time ticking away and a figure haunting her, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.

Horror is my all-time favorite film genre. I find that this is the genre in which filmmakers can do the most creative things, and whenever a new horror feature is releasing in the theatre, it is almost always the movie I look forward to seeing the most  that weekend.

However, there are some instances in which the concept of a horror movie is better than the actual movie itself. One of the biggest examples of this is 2013’s The Purge; a film with such an amazing concept that could have been such an exhilarating time at the theatre, but instead ended up being a disappointing dud. The Purge‘s concept being that all crimes, including murder, all legal for a twenty-four hour time period one night of the year was so brilliant and I remember getting my hopes up immensely only to be let down tremendously. Although I did go on to enjoy some of the franchise’s sequels such as Anarchy and Election Year.

Justin Dec’s latest feature, Countdown, has an awesome premise. The film follows a young nurse named Quinn Harris who downloads an app on her phone that tells her the exact time that she is going to die – that time being an extremely short three days – and she has to do everything in her power to prevent that from happening. This should have been a really thrilling and creepy feature but it instead, ends up being one of the worst horror film these eyes have seen in a long time.

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Elizabeth Lail as Quinn Harris in Countdown (2019).

The script written by Dec is so corny and never knows whether it should take the premise seriously or play it off for a cheap laugh. There may be a scene where a lot of the characters joke about the app, such as the opening, but then the very next scene, they are all deeply worried about it, and the film often has a strange tone. It goes for comedy the one scene and tries to go for terror the next and it just doesn’t work whatsoever.

Now, I know my next point is a nitpick, but it is something that bothered me and so I feel as if I should bring it up anyway. This movie has some seriously strange and downright unnecessary song choices. There is one moment during the second act in which our lead protagonists seek the assistance of a priest named Father John (P.J. Byrne), who is such an annoying character. But, nevertheless, the scene in which they meet him has “Panini” by Lil Nas X blaring. It just seemed like such an odd song to play in this type of film. It came across as seriously cringe-worthy.

At the very least, this movie should be at least entertaining or even amusing, but it just isn’t. All of the deaths here are so bland and non-interesting, probably because it is rated PG-13. It’s obvious that the studio wanted as many people to go see the movie as possible, so they went for the PG-13 rating, although this movie could have been better if it was rated R. With that rating, the kills could have been much more intense and would have given the story a sense of urgency that it otherwise lacks. There’s barely any blood in this movie which is just so bizarre.

If that was not bad enough, the “scares” here are all jump scares. There is absolutely nothing psychologically horrifying about Countdown. Every time the filmmakers want to scare us, they resort to jump scares, which is, in my opinion, the most tired horror cliché in the book. Since the dawn of time, jump scares have not been scary, and it is not any different now. Gratefully, there are plenty of horror movies that do not resort to jump scares, but a lot of them do unfortunately, and Countdown is one of them.

Bringing up the script again – it is riddled with so much tired exposition to the point where we literally get a scene in which somebody tells us the entire history of something because Dec more than likely thought the audience would not understand the story any other way, or he just did not know how else to explain what he wanted to tell, so instead of attempting to do this visually, he just did it with exposition.

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Peter Facinelli as Dr. Sullivan in Countdown (2019).

Whenever you watch a really bad horror movie, you more than likely will find a bunch of characters that are just downright clueless. When a character should obviously not walk into a dark room or an empty corridor, what do they usually do? They do it. In this film, we have characters that do exactly that. The choices they make are so dumb and therefore, it makes it hard for us to root for them, because they don’t make smart decisions.

Countdown also contains some of the worst written dialogue I have seen in quite some time. The biggest showcase of this is in a scene in which the lead protagonist accidentally crashes into a stranger’s car. The man gets out and starts yelling at her and says something along the lines of “Hey! Watch out! You just hit my Lexus!” I promise you, not too many people would say that if somebody hit their car. They would more than likely not bring up what type of car they are driving. A lot of the dialogue is just so corny that it makes you shake your head.

In addition, Countdown has one of the worst and most frustrating endings in years. It sets up a sequel that I don’t think anybody will want, and if it does become a reality, we can only hope that it is better than this painfully boring and frustrating disaster.

Completely devoid of entertainment value or fun scares, Countdown has a drastically weak script, annoying characters, and a concept gone to waste.

Overall Grade: F

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror, violence, bloody images, suggestive material, language and thematic elements

Cast: Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, Talitha Bateman, Tichina Arnold, P.J. Byrne, Peter Facinelli, Anne Winters, Tom Segura

Directed by: Justin Dec

Distributed by: STX Entertainment

Release Date: October 25, 2019 (United States)

Running Time: 90 minutes

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