It’s all fun and games until someone loses an iPhone, but they all believe it will happen to somebody else. It’s carefree party time and drinking games for Courtney and her friends when a conversation about losing weight and counting calories and the suggestion of a helpful app leads to an erroneous download of a very different countdown, one which predicts that while some of her friends will lead long lives Courtney herself will die in just over three hours.
Refusing to travel home in the car with her drunk boyfriend Evan, he has an accident at the precise time predicted which would have killed Courtney had she been in the passenger seat, but even though she chose to walk home Courtney dies regardless. Taken to hospital, Evan is aware his own clock is counting down from twenty hours and confides in newly qualified nurse Quinn, who tries to prove it is nonsense by downloading Countdown herself, only for Evan to die and Quinn’s own subscription to give her less than three days.
The feature debut of writer/director Justin Dec, Countdown is a techno-horror for the Youtube generation and displaying a similarly short attention span and uncomplicated narrative, laying out its premise and the first body within minutes with the urgency of an unwanted phone alert, the shallow credulity of the characters and the audience taken as a given.
“If you could know exactly when you were going to die, would you want to?” is the question asked, but instead of examining the connection between the characters or their relationship to technology they are on the whole superficial, with only the friendship between Quinn (You’s Elizabeth Lail) and fellow Countdown user Matt (Riverdale’s Jordan Calloway) coming across well even if their bonding over childhood traumas echoes the Santa Claus scene in Gremlins.
A Final Destination upgrade which fails to shock and slows the operating system, had Countdown been played for outrageous laughs it might at least have knowingly admitted the weakness of the plot, but played straight it is dependent on Hal’s attempt to make every scene creepy, turning the lights off and making the characters jump at every noise in what is little more than a campfire Hallowe’en tale given a makeover.
With comedian Tom Segura as an acerbic cellphone salesman and Black Lightning‘s P J Byrne as a geeky priest with a convenient interest in demonology, Countdown moves from techno to supernatural horror with a basement scene recreating The Devil Rides Out before ending up as a good old knock-down between good and evil, any moderately high concept abandoned but Quinn at least demonstrating she’s equally willing to take on the forces of darkness and workplace harassment.
Countdown will be available on digital download from 17th February and on DVD from 2nd March