COUNTDOWN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JUSTIN DEC / STARRING: JORDAN CALLOWAY, ELIZABETH LAIL, TALITHA ELIANA BATEMAN / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 2ND
In the opening scene to director Justin Dec's Countdown, a character at a party says of the titular mobile program, “Don't be such a little beeyotch. It's just an app," while trying to convince Courtney (Anne Winters) to put it on her phone. Courtney, of course, installs it with barely a look at the app's terms of service and, within minutes, she's killed horribly after deciding not to ride home with her drunken boyfriend, Evan (Dillon Lane).
Countdown is about the latest hot app which tells users how much longer they have to live. Those with decades left are blasé about the whole thing, but the ones who discover they have just days – or even hours – to live immediately begin to freak out, trying to figure out how they might avoid the clutches of the grim reaper.
The terms of service violations come from when the characters, such as brand new nurse Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail), use the information to change their behavior, staying away from plans which might place them in harm's way during the timeframe in which they're slated to slip off this mortal coil. Of course, that makes the app unhappy, and things will happen to assure that characters pass when they're slated to do so.
Countdown is not fresh or original. There's an insane level of lifting from the Final Destination series, in terms of the whole ‘death will find you’ angle, and every death is pre-loaded with enough fake-out jump scares to be of minimal shock when the actual kills come along.
The entirety of Countdown is fairly self-aware, pointing out how often those watching the movie are on their phones and how little attention is paid to the fine print one is supposed to read before tapping on the “I have read and agree to abide by the terms of service.” It's basically the future of End User License Agreements. Think Facebook but, if you delete it, they slit your throat. A little too close to home maybe for some, but it's a very timely concept, even if done in a manner, which is clunky and awkward.
Happily, all the ancillary characters – P.J. Byrne as Father John, Tom Segura as Derek – are in on the joke, and having too much fun to be ignored. They make Countdown as enjoyable as it can be, and they seem to relish the absurd lines they're given to spout, letting them come across as more than sketches, replete with quirks and full of verve, whereas all of the teens and young adults being affected by the app are basically generic murder fodder. They're not enough to save Countdown from being forgotten within a week of its release, but at least those performances give viewers something worth watching.