In honor of Halloween, I decided I needed to see a horror movie. No, I’m not a fan of them, but it’s Halloween!
OK, there actually weren’t a lot of great options this week, and a movie critic’s gotta do what a movie critic’s gotta do.
Because I avoid horror movies like a vegan avoids a cheeseburger, I’m not exactly an expert on what’s “good” in terms of scares and gags. What I can tell you is that while “Countdown” scared the poo out of me, the people sitting behind me laughed a lot. Granted, they laughed when the first death we see is a woman being attacked and her neck broken by an unseen entity. It was her dead body hitting the floor that got them tickled.
“Countdown” is one of those films that has an absolutely preposterous story at its center. When people download an app called “Countdown,” it tells them exactly how long they have to live. While some folks get spans of 57 years, others get a matter of days, or even hours. For a group of teens at a party, this is the ultimate dare and drinking game.
But, this isn’t their story. Instead, the film focuses on a young woman, Quinn (Elizabeth Lail), who’s just passed her nursing exam and is excited to get started with the next stage in her life. Unfortunately, she has to get over the giant chip on her shoulder and a pervy older doctor (Peter Facinelli), who might as well be giving out shirts that say #MeToo for his victims to wear. He literally oozes sleaze.
Quinn downloads the app after speaking with a young patient whose app tells him he only has 19 hours to live. Seems like it can only make sense for her to download and see when she’s scheduled to visit the Grim Reaper, right?
Spoiler alert: She has three days and change.
Fun facts you should know:
• The app can’t be deleted
• If you change your plans after discovering your death date is impending, you get in trouble
• The closer to zero you are, the more you begin to see things and be visited by nasty apparitions.
The film becomes a race against time (literally) as Quinn pairs up with another doomed soul, Matt (Jordan Calloway), to figure out how to escape their fate. Things become even more dire when Quinn discovers her younger sister, Jordan (Talitha Bateman), is also slated to die within a matter of hours.
To break it down, “Countdown” is definitely full of jump scares, which is possibly my least-favorite horror movie trope. From the app’s incessant alarm that time is winding down, to the apparitions that keep appearing, to the things that go bump in the night (literally), there are a number of tried-and-true methods at play to make the audience feel uneasy.
There’s a movement-activated light in the hallway that keeps going off. Wait, no one is there! There are also about 5,000 reflective surfaces that show a dark figure that isn’t there when you turn around, as well as a dark figure lurking when you pass an open doorway, blink or basically breathe.
Here’s the thing. With a film like this, it didn’t need to try hard. A lot of you wrote the film off as soon as you saw the ridiculous trailer. Others will see most any horror film that comes out, bless your hearts. It doesn’t need to be good, it just needs to have blood, beasties or related themes. OK, she does sleep in her car after seeing something in her apartment, but she’s still decently badass throughout the rest of the film. She doesn’t accept her fate and uses resources at her disposal to try and outsmart the app. More than that, she fights. She fights the pervy doctor and his allegations, and she fights against the idea her sister will die.
OK, the film is also crazy melodramatic. Everyone blames themselves for someone’s death; and yeah, the pervy doctor feels a bit like it’s taking advantage of a current situation. At the same time, they manage to work it into the plot for the third act, so I’ll let them get away with it.
The film also offers a bit of levity in the form of Derek (Tom Segura), a sarcastic cellphone store manager who will do most anything for a buck and a priest (P.J. Byrne) who specializes in demons and GrubHub. Not gonna lie, they were funny at times.
“Countdown” isn’t a good film. Its many, many jump scares had me on the edge of my seat, but is it scary? There were tells that let you know many of them were coming (which is when I shut my eyes). The folks behind me would probably say it was a hoot. It’s also not really gruesome. Lots of folks die, but the blood is kept at a minimum.
Not sure where that leaves “Countdown.” It’s diverting and it might even be called fun. Fans of the genre might get more — or less — out of it than this novice did.