‘Countdown’ confuses creepy with clichéd

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Courtesy of IMDb

Trevor Tyle, Editor-in-Chief

Have you ever wanted to know exactly when you’re going to die? No? Yeah, me neither. 

But for whatever reason, we’re supposed to believe enough people would say “yes” to that question to make a film like “Countdown” seem somewhat believable.

Directed by Justin Dec in his feature film debut, “Countdown” is about an app that can accurately predict when its user is going to die. After a string of mysterious deaths that are linked to the app, a young nurse named Quinn (“You’s” Elizabeth Lail) downloads the app out of curiosity, only to discover she has three days left to live. 

Determined to disprove the app’s claim and save herself, Quinn befriends Matt (Jordan Calloway), a fellow victim of the app whose time is also limited. Together, they must find a way to prevent their impending doom before it’s too late. 

The film posits an interesting concept, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. In many ways, “Countdown” feels like a knockoff of so many other teen thriller films, but its titular app taking on the role of the antagonist makes it feel much more modern. At its core, though, “Countdown” essentially thrives on the all-too-familiar tropes of the genre. 

One of the few refreshing things about this film, however, is its protagonist — for once, it’s not some stupid high school girl whose sole personality trait is making questionable life choices. Instead, we have an intelligent, badass woman who feels, for the most part, real. I’m not going to lie — most of the acting in this film is … not good, to say the least. But Lail’s solid leading performance is ultimately what carries the weight of the film.

Furthermore, Quinn’s relationship with her younger sister Jordan (Talitha Bateman) becomes a significant emotional plot point, and it’s pretty much the only one that works. There’s a plethora of emotionally ineffective backstories here that we’re supposed to care about, but in its 90-minute runtime, the film fails to give audiences a reason to care about most of them — in fact, I found myself laughing during several moments when I probably should’ve been scared. (The most terrifying moment was, unfortunately, during the film’s final moments, when it not-so-subtly teased what is sure to be a terrible sequel that absolutely should not be made under any circumstances.)

One of these emotional subplots is related to sexual assault, but it feels a bit too disjointed from the rest of the narrative to pack the punch it’s supposed to. “Countdown” uses it as a seemingly desperate attempt to make a political statement, which is great … except it has very little to do with what’s going on in the rest of the film. 

As far as the horror element of “Countdown” goes, it’s pretty bleak. There’s a few genuinely terrifying moments, a few that teeter between scary and laughable, and a whole lot of ridiculously cringeworthy jumpscares.

In fact, the film’s attempts at being humorous are far more successful than its attempts at being horrifying. A brutally honest cell phone repair shop manager played by Tom Segura and a dorky, but equally hilarious, priest played by P.J. Byrne are quite possibly the best thing about this movie. Their roles are used rather sparingly across the the film’s perfectly paced hour-and-a-half-long runtime, but they steal the show in every scene they’re in.

“Countdown” is by no means a bad movie. Sure, it’s forgettable, predictable and, for the most part, uninspired — but it’s still, albeit barely, entertaining enough to get the job done.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars