Countdown will not be lauded as an original film, with a lot of inspirations and influences from Asian cinema and the Final Destination series. However, it is not a rehash and is quite an interesting and fun experience.
Countdown starts with a bunch of college students at a party that hear about an app that can predict the time of their death. Naturally they download this app, with most getting predicted relatively long lives, except one of the female students only has hours to live. Soon after, this student dies.
Quinn, our protagonist, meets the former student’s boyfriend as a patient in the hospital where she works as a nurse. He is also spooked by this app, but Quinn does not heed his warnings and downloads the tempting app as well. Her countdown tells her she has only days to live, but it is not until that patient turns up dead at the exact time the app predicated, that she becomes increasingly worried. In a race against the clock, she goes on a mission to try to trick fate and stay alive.
With these kinds of plots, you usually don’t expect the characters to be at all interesting as they are usually just fodder for whatever malignant entity is hunting them. However, Countdown is an exception to this rule. Unlike Final Destination where you are just really watching to see the new and interesting ways that they kill all the characters, with this film, there is more meat to the characters.
We are given a lot of the backstories to all the characters, whether it be personal tragedies such as deaths of loved ones, terse relationships or workplaces grievances. Though they added a little bit of character development to the story, they weren’t exactly original in their approach. Nevertheless, they were nicely blended into the story, so it doesn’t distract from the main plot. Regardless, the characters are all likeable even if they are a bit predictable and boring at times. This gains a thumbs up from me, as rather than wishing people to die, I was rooting for the characters to live, which made the film a lot more exciting.
However, this should be considered very much a light horror, as while there are a lot of deaths, do not expect them to be gruesome or very frightening. A lot of the deaths in this film, rather than being unusual or growing in complexity and gruesomeness, as is often the case in other films of this ilk, are quite run-of-the-mill. Once you have seen one body thrown about to its death, the rest just become utterly monotonous.
But that is not to say there aren’t scary moments – as we get deeper into the film, we realize that there is more to this app than just a countdown, and that they are being stalked and terrorized. Those moments can be quite intense and have a nice little psychological tug that, while related to family, does not descend into awfully cheesy moments. However, it does rely on jump scares quite a bit, and unfortunately some of these are not very successful in their attempts.
While you could argue Countdown is quite derivative, I found the ways that our protagonist and others tried to remove or beat this countdown to be quite inventive and entertaining. It did follow the usual format where soon-to-be victims go out seeking answers through research or people but with a twist. Unlike other films that try to ignore the more traditional supernatural elements that this film is based upon, it references and combines these two sub-genres in a way that was not ham fisted. This was perhaps the most interesting part of the film, and I do wish they had run with it a bit further, as I would have liked to have seen where they could have taken it.
I should mention though Countdown is listed as a supernatural horror thriller, I would not describe that as completely accurate. It does have those elements, but there are clear moments, mostly in the middle of the movie, that are more comedy horror. This change in gear was a bit jarring, but it did work, and they struck a fairly reasonable balance between the two. In this sense, you would not be remiss to see it is similar to Happy Death Day. Unlike that though, it is not as successful at making it work overall. It does make me wonder whether Countdown would have been a better movie if they had chosen either strictly serious or comedic.
Even though a lot of the main moments can be quite predictable at times, thankfully the ending was not. The lead up to the ending and its final conclusion were quite surprising. From the way Quinn is portrayed throughout this film, it was a bit of a head spin and quite an inventive solution of cheating death. However, if you do examine it a bit more closely, there are unfortunately a few inconsistencies that do not line up with the canon they had established earlier in the movie.
Countdown will not blow your mind with originality in its plot, deaths or characters. Nevertheless, it is still a fun watch that will keep you entertained for its whole duration.