“Countdown” – Movie Review

They say that death and taxes are the only things from which we cannot escape.  However, one could commit tax evasion by not paying them, so ultimately, death is the only inevitable force in the universe.

But would knowing the exact date and time change our perspective?  It’s a truly fascinating and thought-provoking concept, one that Countdown attempts to explore, but unfortunately fails miserably at.  Let’s take a deeper look into this doomed horror film, and find out what went wrong!

“There’s an App for That”
The film begins with a group of teens at a party who all download an app called “Countdown”.  To them, this death timer is nothing more than an amusing party game.  However, one such teen discovers that she only has 3 hours to live.  Through the ill fated girl’s boyfriend, word reaches Nurse Quinn (Elizabeth Lail), who also downloads the app, discovering she has but a few days.  What follows is an extremely clichéd and paint by numbers exercise in PG-13 horror, one which is more interested in tacky jump scares than actual suspense.

Since when can hospital staff get away with being on their phones this often?!

Countdown is clearly aimed at a teenage audience, as even the adult characters in their 20s still act with all the immaturity and foolishness that a teen might.  It’s somewhat forgivable to have characters like this when most of them are in fact aged 13-19, but we’re supposed to buy that Quinn is a professional nurse and she just feels shallow and very poorly written.

No Father Merrin
And while we’d rather not even start discussing what might be the most ridiculous portrayal of a priest in film history, it nevertheless needs to be discussed.  As Quinn and another doomed character Matt (Jordan Holloway) seek answers, they turn to the very unconventional Father John (P.J. Byrne).

He’s not unconventional in the sense that he’s a renegade priest whose methods clash with the church, rather he seems more like a geeky fanboy than an actual priest.  It’s quite clear that the film had the best intentions here, and wanted to make Father John into a lighthearted, comic relief character.

This type of characterization worked perfectly for Byrne in 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street. But it almost seems like he’s still playing that character here.

But the issue is that they made him far too immature and over the top, to the point that he almost seems like a cartoon character.  While Quinn and Matt are fearing for their lives, he can’t help but make incredibly inappropriate jokes.  It’s hard to believe that someone as crass and tone deaf as him would have even graduated from the seminary.

(Minor Spoilers Ahead)

Major Consequences
The film also tackles the very real and serious issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, but it does so with very little subtlety or realism.  This subplot plays a role at the end of the film as Quinn attempts to seek revenge on the doctor who propositioned her, but she goes from sympathetic survivor to cold blooded killer rather quickly.

She believes that because the app told him he had many years left, if she simply kills him early, it will prove the app wrong, and therefore nullify it.  Then, when the she decides not to kill the doctor (despite him being an all-around asshole), does she really expect her life to go back to the way it was?

The hardest thing to believe isn’t that she even tried to kill him. It’s that he accused her of doing what he did, and they didn’t so much as take a statement from her! This may very well be a commentary on how sexual harassment works, but in this current climate, it doesn’t make sense.

Sure she managed to survive, and the predatory doctor was rightfully arrested after several other woman came forward about him.  But it doesn’t change the fact that Quinn is essentially guilty of attempted murder.  Even if the doctor himself goes to jail, what Quinn did is still very illegal, and she would certainly face the consequences of that.

Plus, the film never really explains whether Quinn and Matt were doomed from the start, or if the act of downloading the app is what caused them to only have a few days to live.

Ultimately, Countdown fails, not because of its odd premise (Final Destination made a career out of doing this, but did it well), rather it fails because it feels less like one coherent story, and more like a series of jump scares strewn together, where the first draft was never edited and merely passed off to begin shooting.  There’s cheesy PG-13 horror, and then there’s this!

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