Robert’s Review: Countdown (2019)

Fangoria! Woo!

★1/2 out of ★★★★★
This Final Destination rip-off is cliché, derivative, and predictable. You’ve got better things to do with your time.

Directed by Justin Dec

Cheating death. Living on borrowed time. It’s one of the trusted tropes of the horror genre. Frank escaped the cenobites to get another crack at life in Hellraiser (1987) and the entire Final Destination franchise (2000 – 2011) was all about people trying to avoid their fates. No matter how you’re supposed to end up on the other side of the cosmic veil, if you’re in a horror movie, you might be able to postpone your Date with Death.

In Justin Dec’s debut feature film, Countdown (2019), everyone can find out exactly when they’re scheduled to snuff it courtesy of an app on their cell phones. The eponymous app unsurprisingly gives each user a timer that counts down until the very second they shuffle off this mortal coil. For some, the timer is set to count down decades of their statistically average lifespans for this day and age. Others, however, aren’t quite so lucky.

Countdown follows a few of these unlucky folks who’ve been told they have mere days to live. Unsatisfied that they drew the short straws in the grand game of chance we call Life & Death, they attempt to buck the system with mixed results.

Elizabeth Lail

Nursing student Quinn Harris [Elizabeth Lail; TV’s Once Upon a Time (2014)] teams up with guy-she-met-at-the-phone-store, Matt Monroe [Jordan Calloway; TV’s Black Lightning (2018-2020)], to prevent the cell phone timer app from inconveniently taking their lives as scheduled.

To this end, they enlist the help of a thrill-seeking priest [P.J. Byrne; TV’s Black Lightning (2018-2019)] as well as Quinn’s younger sister, Jordan [Talitha Eliana Bateman; Annabelle: Creation (2018)], who has coincidentally also been afflicted with an uncomfortably short countdown duration.

Jordan Calloway

For some reason, actual money was spent on Countdown so production values are high. The movie looks slick, the effects — while minimal — are decent for PG-13 fare, and all of the actors are at ease in front of the camera. Not that the movie’s going to win any Best Acting accolades, but they do a reasonable job of it with Jordan Calloway as the most notable one of the bunch.

Writing-wise it’s a bit of a mess. The romance between the two leads seems like it was shoehorned into the script. The sexual harassment sub-plot — including Quinn’s attempted murder of the rapey doctor which then goes completely unacknowledged for the rest of the film — feels like a clumsy attempt to make the movie “relevant” or “timely”. And the odd Guilt Stories the characters tell about loved ones they’ve lost are there solely to set up minor scares later in the film.

Countdown does have a few chuckles in it and, if you’re looking for something light to watch while you clean up the living room (which you know you’ve been putting off for far too long — I’m just sayin’), this movie doesn’t ask much of its audience. It’s passably entertaining and you don’t have to pay much attention to it.

If you’re actually looking for a movie to watch, you’re better off going back to Final Destination (2000) again. Or, better yet, catch the great death-prediction-by-cell-phone Japanese movie, Chakushin Ari (2003). “One Missed Call” in English — not to be confused with the American remake, One Missed Call (2008), which was crap.

If you still want to watch Countdown for some reason, you can find it on Amazon Prime, iTunes, and the rest of the usual streaming platforms.

Review by Robert Zilbauer.

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