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Countdown ••1/2

Starring: Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, Talitha Eliana Bateman
Director: Justin Dec
Screenplay: Justin Dec
Horror/Thriller, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: October 25, 2019



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With the countdown to the Oscars beginning, are you ready to review a clear contender in Countdown?

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, if you think Countdown Is Oscar-worthy, then I’m “counting” the days until you’re “down” and out. Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to young Quinn Harris, a twenty-something nurse whose friends have just discovered an iPhone app called “Countdown” that will count down the time until you die. Everyone thinks it’s a joke. Until someone actually dies after evading the countdown. Quinn meets Evan in the hospital where she works and learns that his girlfriend should have died in the car crash he was in, but was mysteriously killed at exactly the time the app said she would have died.

Evan is scheduled to have surgery and the app tells him that he’ll die on the table. He tries to avoid the surgery and is informed he has violated the terms of the app. A demon appears and Evan is a goner. Quinn is now taking the app seriously. She seeks help from her pastor who tells her to see another pastor who has an amazing aptitude for scripture verses about 21st century phone apps. Mayhem ensues.

Scott, this film reminds me of an early Ali Larter film Final Destination where a group of kids miss a doomed aircraft which crashes killing all onboard. In that film, Death knocks off the kids one-by-one until only blond Ali Larter character remains. In Countdown we have the same Final Girl trope wherein our blond heroine (who bears a striking resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence) must trick Death into a lie and therefore saves her sister.

I kind of liked this film despite its predictability. It seems everyone is getting on the “We’ve got an app for that” bandwagon, including Hollywood. We’ve seen a number of films recently that prominently feature iPhones (or their ilk) in the plot. There was last year’s Her and The Circle. As much as we love our devices, we still fear the power they have over us –  whether we use them or not.

Another, rather new trope, is the #MeToo villain. The doctor in the story sexually harasses Quinn (and apparently other women) and gets the board of directors to fire her for harassing him. This sets him up for becoming the sacrifice to Death that will break the curse. It seems a little out of character for Quinn, how is a very moral woman otherwise, they decide to kill someone – even if it is to save her sister. But this is a horror play, not a morality play. So, making the doctor a perv is a nice way to justify his potential demise.

Very nice psychological analysis, Gregger. You’ve missed your calling. We know from Joseph Campbell that hero and villain stories are rife with unconscious psychological symbolism and cosmological significance.

I give the makers of Countdown a lot of credit. This movie had tremendous potential to be bad, and I mean really bad. The story is based on the gimmicky premise that an app will not only predict the day of your death but will actually make it happen, too. Even worse is how the app works – some kind of underworld demon is invoked who has the power to manipulate people and objects, except at the end when the plot demands that the demon lack this power. As Charlie Brown once said, and I quote: “Good grief”.

So why do I give this movie any credit at all? Because at least we’re shown a hero, Quinn, who is on a hero’s journey and who has to complete a hero’s mission of interrupting the deadly cycle of evil prognostication. She attracts a helper in Matt (who is doomed, of course) and a mentor in Father John (who knows all about doom). It’s all pretty textbook for the horror genre. The main challenge when watching movies like this is anticipating who will die, and when. I’m getting pretty good at it, to the point where I’d like to create an app for movie audiences who want to predict the exact timing of movie characters’ deaths.

Does our hero Quinn transform at all as a result of her experience? That’s hard to say, although it’s likely that she grew in resilience and courage. I believe we watch thriller movies with happy endings like this one because we hope and pray that we’ll make the same quick, smart, life-saving choices as our heroes do. Frankly, as an old bald man, I doubt I’d survive as a character in the horror genre. I’m the guy who dies a gruesome death half-way through the movie while trying to help the hero. Remember that for the app I’m developing.

Haha… oh Scott… there is, after all, truth in comedy. Yes, Countdown is Halloween Movie Candy. And pretty tasty. It has all the elements necessary: a cute girl in danger, a nice guy sidekick who dies, a little sister who needs saving, and a pure evil demonic presence out to kill everyone who had guilt over some transgression (causing the death of a mother or brother). It’s a good formula and I had a good time. I’ll give it 3 out of 5 Reels.

I have to differ with you on the hero’s journey. As we have discussed, good stories have an inner journey and an outer journey. Quinn has a nice outer journey where she saves herself and her sister. But she doesn’t really grow in any significant way. She wasn’t shown to be a pushover in the beginning. She’s pretty plucky from beginning to end. I can only muster 2 out of 3 Heroes for her.

Finally, the message? I don’t know. iPhones are evil and like Amazon, Apple, and Facebook they are always listening and will be your eventual demise? Only if you text and drive. I give this roller coaster fun ride just 1 out of 5 Message Points.

Movie: Message: Heroes:

Countdown is pretty standard horror-thriller fare, with a modern technological spin involving iPhones. I enjoyed the movie the way you’d enjoy any campy B-movie. There’s something to be said for spending 90-minutes entertaining our fears while shaking our head sadly at cavernous plot-holes. Maybe those plot-holes are there to remind us that none of this is real. I give Countdown 2 Reels out of 5.

But I do give this movie credit for giving us a worthy hero in Quinn, who shows strength and resolve while vanquishing the bad #metoo movement dude as well as the campy villainous demon. There are enough elements of the heroic journey to make me a happy consumer, so I award 3 Hero points out of 5 here.

The message of this movie is to beware downloading strange apps and, if you do, then at least read the goddamn terms of agreement. And if you do find yourself enmeshed with a demonic possession situation, please read up on satanic scripture — that’s where the solution to the hero’s quandary is found. 1 Message point only out of 5 here.

Movie: Message: Heroes:

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