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Review: App that shows when you die at center of ambitious, yet lackluster 'Countdown'

Courtesy of STX Entertainment 


“Death? There’s an app for that” reads the tagline for the new horror thriller “Countdown” which seems like the sole horror offering this Halloween season (I don’t consider “Zombieland: Double Tap” or “The Addams Family” in the same league). The concept is a simple one easily explained in one sentence. Unsuspecting bodies download an app called Countdown which supposedly discloses how many years, hours, and seconds you’ve got to live. For some, they’ve got 82 years left to go, and for others - specifically in the case of Quinn (Elizabeth Lail), a roving night RN at a nearby hospital - it’s two days. Tick. Tock. 

It seems like a hoax until the sudden death of one of Quinn’s patients sparks her curiosity, and she begins having visions of an evil demon lurking in the shadows. Trying to get a new phone and erase the app won’t work, because her time is coming and it’s coming fast. Though a similar seven day ticking death clock was used in “The Ring,” the concept of an app predicting your death is an intriguing plot device that never reaches its full potential. Characters get introduced like Matt Monroe (Jordan Calloway) whose reckoning is fast approaching and sole purpose is to spark a love interest for Quinn that doesn’t ignite. And writer/director Justin Dec tries to jampack social commentaries on the #MeToo movement as well as coping with grief in the span of 89 minutes when all anyone cares about is these character archetypes getting the axe. 

I must admit, there were a few occasions where I did get spooked and the score swelled at just the opportune moment to evoke a reaction. So it’s clear the Dec has an eye for staging potboiler tension, made even more apparent by a horror sequence inside a hospital stairwell early in the film that hints at the films underlying potential. Even when the squad visits a local pastor (played by a kooky P.J. Byrne) and he starts spewing dialogue about an ancient demon lurking inside the app, you kinda have to hand it to the film for trying to be somewhat creative and hip with the times. Everyone is on their phones nowadays, so why not have that phone try to kill you? Despite “Countdown” getting bogged down by cheesy one liners, unconvincing performances, and poor execution overall, I do give credit to the filmmakers for at the very least trying to be ambitions. 

Grade: C+

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