In the mood for an early 2000s teen supernatural slasher (think ‘Final Destination’ et al) then ‘Countdown’ is far from a bad choice.
I will accept that turn-of-the-century horror isn’t exactly the go-to era of horror, but there’s no denying there’s something of a nostalgic charm about the easy watching, linear know-what-your-getting template used to offer viewers hollow but satisfying thrills; and this is what ‘Countdown’ delivers in spades.
The films tagline ‘Death: There’s an App for That’ not only encapsulates the films plot, but also its target audience. This is not aimed at the mature connoisseur, nor is it trying to emulate a more hallowed style or time period in the annals of horror, its aimed at younger audiences who want a movie to watch with their mates on a Saturday night, and nothing more; just as ‘Final Destination’, ‘Urban Legend’ and other teen horror movies did in their brief heyday.
The film’s plot follows a young nurse, and ultimately a small collection of eclectic characters, as they attempt to escape their death, predicted rather crudely on an iPhone App called ‘Countdown’. As part of the ‘End User Agreement’ the app promises to tell you the time you have left to live, so long as you don’t use this information to try to escape it; do that, and well you still die, just worse!
Initially, everyone thinks it’s a bit of a laugh, more so for those who got a prediction that they were going to live a long life in spite of questionable lifestyle habits; not so funny for those with mere days left on the clock. Of course, no one believes it at first, but then people start to die in somewhat violent and bizarre ways, bang on the time the app said they would… so yeah, shit got real.
The characters are generic, well except for a fantastically written youthful priest character, but the acting is on point, so I was happy enough just to role with the cliches at this point. Indeed, not only did I find the acting to be of a surprisingly good standard, but as the film drew me in, I began to appreciate the focussed (and at times witty) writing of the script, pace, exposition and attention to detail with regards to some of the more effective set pieces.
The film came across self-aware, but without becoming pretentious about it, and a such, it was able to both parody but remain within the restraints of the teen-horror niche to entertaining effect.
As the film rolled on, it had just enough investment in its characters so that you knew who to route for, without some of the prevalent angst, annoying attitude and entitlement that often bogs down the pace of similar film, coupled with enough of a goofy plot/lore of its antagonist through which to establish itself as a distinct product over another clone.
The scares are pretty solid throughout. They are predominantly of the ‘jump-scare’ variety, so if you’ve jumped onto the ‘jump scare = cheap scare = utter distain’ bandwagon then this film is not for you. Taking clear cue from the more effective contemporary 15-rated jolt a minute joyrides this film favours creativity over continuity when it comes to offing its characters, and its certainly not worth overthinking how each of the films well telegraphed death sequences link together within the films more spiritual exposition of plot. Its not terrifying, but its tense with some effective jolts spaced neatly throughout its runtime.
On this point, the film essentially takes the final destination concept and marries it rather haphazardly with the spiritual themes of ‘Drag Me to Hell’ and as such, when the antagonist is revealed, well lets just say it might be more impactful to a 15 year old girl at a sleep over. Yeah, the CGI spectre is perhaps not a strong point of the film otherwise slick production!
Overall, I enjoyed ‘Countdown’. Its not a standout horror film, but its certainly an entertaining one. If you are feeling like you’re in the mood for some 2000s teen horror, but your tired of re-watching the more obvious choices then, again, give this a go. Best thing is, however, its an Amazon Original, so if you’ve got Amazon Prime, its free to watch!