As a horror fan, it’s great to know that films are being released just in time for Halloween. Gone are the days of going out for candy and dressing up. I’ve been celebrating the Halloween season by watching horror films all throughout October. Luckily, there are more than enough films to choose from and even more, are being released. The most recent horror film that I watched, which was just released in theaters, is Countdown.
Countdown, which was directed by Justin Dec and produced by STX Entertainment, centers around Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail) a young nurse who downloads an app that can supposedly predict when a person is going to die. When she uses the app, it tells her that she only has three days left to live. She ignores the warnings until the deaths of other users start happening around her. Trying to make sense of what’s happening, she meets Matt Monroe (Jordan Calloway) who also used the app. They decide to team up in order to figure out how the app is torturing its users so they can prevent more deaths, including the death of Quinn’s younger sister, Jordan (Talitha Eliana Bateman).
At a glance, this just looks like an average horror film that was released for the sake of October being associated with Halloween. However, Countdown has one of the most interesting premises I’ve seen. While other films like One Missed Call, When a Stranger Calls, and The Ring have all used phones in their premise, this film offers a more modern lens that younger generations can relate to. Given the rapid growth of smartphones and apps within the past decade, there was bound to be a film that implemented this as the central focus. It not only works because we live in a decade where we’re so dependent on technology but also it dives into the fears of technology determining our own fate. For this film, technology is combined with the supernatural to create a horrific situation that reflects on the world we live in.
However, such a strong premise isn’t enough to save the film from its flaws. As with many horror films released by major studios, Countdown relies heavily on jump scares. I’m not a fan of over-using jump scares in any film since it takes away any real sense of horror. They’re also very predictable as if someone could just count the beats until a jump scare is going to happen. For instance, Quinn decides to change her phone and number to avoid the consequences of using the app. As she’s about to drive away with her new phone, the Countdown app opens up. An eerie feeling starts to creep in just as two ominous hands appear from the back of her car and grab her. The scare in this scene is predictable starts to be predictable as soon as the app opens in her new phone. I just wish there could have been a different way to set up Quinn’s fear of what just happened.
Another of the film’s major flaws is the lack of any real character development. Throughout the film, I got the impression that I was only meant to care about the characters when they were being tortured by the entity that haunts the app. The little character development that is included is only used as a way to explain why certain characters are being terrorized in a specific way. This is one of the few films where I couldn’t find a reason to root for the main character, Quinn, or even for her to find a way to save her sister. Had this been a much more fleshed out story that didn’t focus so much on trying so hard to be scary, particularly with its jumpscares, I would’ve been more invested.
I was really looking forward to seeing Countdown, especially after seeing how the film was marketed on social media and YouTube. There was a specific video that showed a live audience watching it in a theater hall, which made me even more excited. However, the overall film ended up being a major letdown. It’s a lot for a film to just hope that people will go see and enjoy it based on its premise. I’m sure the cast did what they could with what they were given, but the lack of character development hurt the film even more. Because of this major flaw, this is not a film that I can recommend for others to watch.
If you do decide to see it, make sure to stay after the movie ends for the mid-credit scene.
Countdown is now playing in theaters everywhere.
the overall film ended up being a major letdown. It’s a lot for a film to just hope that people will go see and enjoy it based on its premise.