Cinematic Releases: Countdown (2019) - Reviewed

Just in time for Halloween, STX is releasing the new lower budget genre flick Countdown which opens Thursday night. 

As a bit of pre-holiday ritualistic horror fare, it's probably going to see a nice run at the theater this weekend, but overall it's not going to win any prizes for creativity or great acting. Much like the Saw series and the Paranormal Activity saga before it, we won't be shocked if this becomes the next multi-film deal that sees a yearly entry where more and more people fall victim to the evils of technology. Countdown definitely bears all the primary markers of being the pilot behind a new multi-chapter movie series. Next year will undoubtedly see Countdown 2 Death if this one is mildly successful at all. On a budget of only $6.5 million dollars, who could blame them?

The film sees innocent victims download a new smartphone app that tells them when they're going to die. And much like the movie series it's so ripping off (Final Destination), everyone starts to die violently as their timer runs out. It's a predictable premise that wears thin pretty fast, but seems to pick up more steam as the third chapter begins. Once they find a way to start manipulating the application, things are somewhat more interesting, yet still not anything we haven't seen or heard before. Countdown is like horror comfort food. It's easy to watch and never requires too much brain power. And maybe that's okay sometimes. 

Best. Weapon. Ever. 

The deaths aren't overtly creative but just bloody enough and the tension is kept at a bare minimum. But there are some good jump scares and a lurking presence that helps check all the boxes. Actress Elizabeth Lail does a fair job carrying the burden of a lackluster script that probably wouldn't have passed muster without her talents. And good old Peter Facinelli is here offering up his creepiest version of a doctor with no moral compass. And the rest of the supporting cast really just does their damnedest to seem interesting, if not completely scared of impending doom.  

With very little promotion or marketing, this latest franchise kick starter is a rather fun, but totally brainless time at the cinema that will keep teenagers tickled but might be a little too simple minded for die hard horror fans. The payoff definitely feels rushed as they continue running down the punch list of how to make a horror movie. But, the idea behind a story that mixes technology with the supernatural and our obsession with cell phones is spot on. If you just want to shut your mind off and watch something goofy that has no relevance to real life and doesn't ask you to spend more than 90 minutes of your precious time watching people die, Countdown will be this weekend's Halloween winner. 

-Chris George