I remember seeing the hilariously stupid trailer for Countdown in front of a screening of Hustlers. When the tagline ” Death. There’s an App For That” appeared on screen I couldn’t help but laugh. You can picture the studio executives with dollar signs in their eyes as they green light a movie about a killer phone app that they hope will appeal to an audience 30 years younger (at least) then then. I was planning to see this in cinemas (with an Unlimited Card) but unfortunately missed it. Quarantine has me going through a small backlog of theatrical releases I didn’t see before everything shut down so I rented this for cheap on Amazon and sat down ready to laugh myself silly at this ridiculous premise. Did the film deliver on that nebulous promise?
No. Don’t get me wrong there are a couple of moments of unintentional hilarity but for as ridiculous as the premise is the film is far too morose and serious to get consistent ironic enjoyment out of. Do not get me wrong this is exactly the sort of lazy easy target primeed for the CinemaSins era of nitpick film criticism You can practically hear the CinemaSins “ding” as the film checks off a list of teen horror cliches. Pre-title scare, embarrassing fake out jump scares, dead parents, antagonistic relationship between siblings, protagonist just starting a new job as the film begins and victims refusing to believe the app is real before getting killed off, among others. The filmmakers should also know that perhaps they don’t have the tact necessary to tackle #meto in a movie about a killer phone app. Elizabeth Lail is likeable in the lead and none of the cast embarrass themselves given the premise. In fact, PJ Byrne turns up and delivers a few non ironic laughs as the expositional priest telling the characters about the central curse.
Overall, outside of a few moments Countdown is nowhere near as hysterically bad as you’d imagine given the premise. It is exactly the sort of lazy corporate filmmaking that is an easy target for online film commentators and journalists. That said none of the cast embarrass themselves and there are a couple of non-ironic laughs that prevent the film from being a total disaster. If you are looking for a goofy sounding Friday night slice of teen horror this might fit the bill. That said do not expect something you will be able to watch ironically for several viewings afterwards.
PS. Speaking of lazy YouTube content creative I’m not sure I can relay how mildly embarrassed I was when I spotted a Fine Bros/React alarm in the opening scene. Say what you will about the Fine Bros early reaction content (before they started turning out variations of the same video on an almost daily basis) it had more understanding of its audience and their expectations then this film.