Would you want to know when you die? In Countdown, a mysterious phone app offers its users just that. But that knowledge isn’t so comforting for some, as their time is up much sooner than expected. Unfortunately, this 2019 horror film doesn’t deliver much in terms of smart storytelling or unique frights.
When her patient expresses concern over an app that warns of his impending death, Quinn (Elizabeth Lail) downloads it to see for herself. While it says she only has days left to live, she’s unbothered as it can’t possibly be capable of knowing that. But when that patient dies, she begins to worry the app might be real.
Desperate to survive, she buys a new phone to no avail. In her efforts, she meets Matt (Jordan Calloway), another user of the sinister app. Together they attempt everything they can to buy more time and discover the truth about its origins. But is there truly a way of escaping death?
Finding the right balance for a techno-horror film can be difficult. We’re a society dependent on technology, and it’s easy to have a concept that could attempt an underlying meaning that tackles our use of it. Many have tried, but few have been able to offer something truly original and genuinely frightening.
Countdown could have easily been a fun premise with solid frights, but it’s far too redundant. It’s reminiscent of Final Destination, though it could have succeeded in its own right if it had more to offer. Instead, it suffers through predictability and cheap thrills that never make for a truly enjoyable viewing experience.
The premise of a death prediction works so much better in a film like Final Destination since most of the horror lies within psychological elements. The fear that characters have facing their demise and in what manner. That aspect of paranoia provides a level of tension for the audience. It’s not so much relying on jump scares from manifested ghouls to get a rise from the viewer.
Unlike Countdown, where at times, there are demons or ghosts presented for new real reason and the poor CGI ruins whatever effect they could have.
This film needed to build more of a moody, ominous presence and play into the psychological aspects to have succeeded. A great example is It Follows, where the entity never takes shape in a monstrous form but instead looms over the characters feeding off that fear and transmitting it off the screen.
While it has a somewhat satisfying third act, the film can’t compensate for its weak script. It’s simply the standard format of a supernatural mystery—even down to forced theologies. Everything just feels… bland. It might be fun enough for a teen slumber party, but otherwise, it’s a forgetful story.
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