The ubiquity of mobile phones and apps in daily life is ripe for exploration and a horror film is a perfect vehicle to explore the darker side of our societal obsession in a clever and insightful way. Unfortunately, there’s nothing remotely clever or insightful about the stupid and inconsistent “Countdown”.
A new app is sweeping the, um, town I guess – one which predicts when you will die, down to the second. When some shocked users find they’ve only got a few days left, the race is on to find a way to escape their fate.
In the fairytale glens of Scotland in “Brave”, it takes courage to change your fate but in “Countdown” you’re damned if you do – and damned if you don’t. As a horror movie concept, it doesn’t really make sense. You’re told when you’re going to die (but not how) and if you change your plans based on knowing that, you’ll get killed anyway by the demon Ozhin.
Ozhin is a curious horror film creation, too, often to be found lurking in the background of scenes in a vaguely Pythonesque knights-who-say-Ni way, it’s never really clear what his deal is. He’s certainly more future-facing than his hellish colleagues but there’s a lack of irony or wit to his victim selection or evidence of any point beyond just randomly killing a bunch of folk. Also, an app would be downloaded millions – even billions – of times. If your modus operandi is to turn up personally to strangle those people who don’t go quietly to their preappointed demises then allowing limitless victims to sign up to a gimmicky app is going to keep you hella-busy.
This could have been a witty and pointed satire by ensuring that the app-enabled phone was always central to the way the victims died – a kind of telecommunications version of “Final Destination” but there’s just no creativity or irony involved in this and so people are just killed by a floaty monster or fall down the stairs or get hit by a car (and never while distracted/ using their phones). Instead of giving more background to the app and its infernal intentions or building a coherent and credible set of ‘rules’, the film devotes fully a third of its runtime to a misjudged and muddled #metoo subplot that never pays off or gels with the main story in a satisfying or relevant way.
There are a couple of half-decent jump scares and the cast are likeable even though their characters are two-dimensional and largely interchangeable but this is a dumb movie that wastes its premise. If this was an app, you’d definitely swipe left.