An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.
Today we’re looking at the 2019’s Countdown
When Quinn (Elizabeth Lail) downloads an app that countdowns to your death, she learns she has three days left to live and now must find a way to stop the curse behind the app.
Is Countdown (2019) Scary?
Surprisingly Countdown has some creepy tense scenes but unfortunately, because of the premise of the movie, you’re not too scared. You know when each character is going to die so those creepy scenes don’t really scare you because there’s no real danger but there are some effective jump scares. Overall you won’t leave Countdown too scared unless you recently downloaded an app that tells you when you’re going to die.
The film opens at a house party with a bunch of teens. In the living room, Kate tells a group of her friends sitting around a table about an app called “Countdown to Skinny” that helps you keep track of your calories.
One of the girls, Allie, quickly looks it up and asks if she found the right app. Showing her phone we see Allie’s found the “Countdown” app and not the “Countdown to Skinny” app. The description also reads “If you could know exactly when you were going to die, would you want to know?”. This is so far from a calorie-counting app that we can only assume Allie can’t read.
All the friends around the table decide to download the app except for Courtney (played by Anne Winters) until Allie uses the highly convincing “don’t be a bitch” argument to get her to change her mind. The group all reveal how long they have left with Courtney reluctantly revealing she has 3 hours left.
Since Courtney is dying soon, that means she loses and has to drink all the alcoholic drinks. Courtney’s boyfriend, Evan (played by Dillon Lane) comes to her rescue and drinks the drinks for her. Cut to later a few hours later and a very drunk Evan is about to drive Courtney home.
Courtney declines and Even gets insulted so she decides to walk home alone. Evan speeds off as Courtney’s phone goes off and we see the Countdown app has sent her a notification telling her she broke the User Agreement. With 7 minutes left to live, Courtney rushes home which is literally like 2 blocks from the party.
As her countdown reaches zero, Courtney is attacked and killed by an unseen force. Meanwhile, we see Evan has crashed his car and is badly injured. A tree branch has broken the windshield and impaled the seat where Courtney would have been sitting.
Title card! Cut to our main character Quinn (played by Elizabeth Lail) arriving at work as a nurse in a hospital and going about her tasks. We see that one of her patients is Evan who will be going into surgery the following day. Quinn goes to check on him but discovers he’s missing from his room. She quickly finds him in a closed-off wing of the hospital that is currently under construction.
Evan tells her about Courtney and Quinn tries to console him. He then reveals he also downloaded the app and only has 19 hours to live.
Quinn tells Evan that the app must be fake and brings him back to his room. A few moments later Quinn’s colleagues celebrate her passing her test, now becoming a licensed nurse and an official employee of the hospital. As they have cake, Quinn tells the rest of her colleagues including Nurse Amy (played by Tichina Arnold), Dr. Sullivan (played by Peter Facinelli), and Father David (played by Valente Rodriguez) about the app and they download it.
The group is then interrupted by a man carrying a woman suffering from a drug overdose. The group quickly help by administering Narcan, a drug that counteracts the effects of an overdose. The woman almost immediately wakes up and survives.
Later as Quinn leaves the hospital, she downloads the app and discovers she has 2 days and 22 hours left to live. There’s then a quick scene of her in the elevator where Dr. Sullivan gets a bit handsy to her disgust.
That night, Quinn is at her apartment filling out some documents for her employment and discovers she needs her birth certificate but left it at her parent’s house. It’s clear that Quinn doesn’t want to call her parents or go to the house. They also show she needs the birth certificate for I9 employment verification which means she can use a whole list of other things like, her driver’s license and social security card, or her passport but the movie needs to happen so forced family drama it is!
Quinn drives to her parent’s home and we learn that her mother passed away which possibly caused some divide in the family. After finding her birth certificate, Quinn hears sounds coming from a closet and discovers her teen sister Jordan (played by Talitha Eliana Bateman) hiding in the closet with her boyfriend.
Her boyfriend quickly leaves and Jordan lashes out a Quinn for not being around the last six months. Quinn tries to apologize but Jordan heads into her room. The noise wakes up their father, Charlie (played by Matt Letscher) who invites Quinn to lay flowers on her mother’s grave over the weekend.
The following day, Evan is about to go into surgery but after seeing he only has 3 minutes left to live he leaves his room. He gets a notification from the Countdown app telling him the user agreement has been broken and spots someone behind him in a black sheet (like a grim reaper) standing at the end of the hallway.
The person disappears and then reappears in a jump scare causing Evan to limp to the staircase. The power goes out in the staircase and his phone alerts him he has one minute left to live. Evan hears someone running up the stairs but is unable to see who it is. He then sees Courtney standing a few steps above him with her back turned to him.
Evan calls out to her and she turns to him but reveals her demonic face. Demon-Courtney runs towards him and we cut to the bottom of the stairs as Evan’s phone fall from the top along with Evan’s body.
Quinn arrives at the hospital and is told of Evan’s death. She decides to steal his phone and goes to the morgue where there is apparently no security or anyone working. She then uses his fingerprint and face to unlock the phone. Quinn confirms Evan’s countdown app was at zero and we later see her stressed that her app says she has less than 2 days left.
Quinn looks at her calendar and sees she’s supposed to be heading to the cemetery with her sister and dad that day. Since dying at a cemetery with the rest of your family while visiting another dead family member is a huge downer, Quinn calls her father and cancels.
After the call, the countdown app sends Quinn a notification telling her she broke the user agreement. Quinn ignores it (because fuck app notifications) and goes to help a patient with Dr. Sullivan. In the room, Dr. Sullivan notices how stressed Quinn is and thinks it’s because it’s her first day as an official nurse. To console her, he hugs her and smells her hair which is always a weird thing to do.
Quinn walks to the other side of the room and the married Dr. Sullivan attempts to kiss her by pinning her to the wall. This causes Quinn to freak out and rush out of the room. She immediately sees Nurse Amy and attempts to tell her in private but Dr. Sullivan demands Nurse Amy come to see him first.
That night Quinn researches the Countdown app and finds an article about Courtney’s death. She then finds a video of another person who downloaded the app. The girl says ever since she got the app she’s been seeing things and as her time winds down she’s started to see her dead cousin.
Another video shows the same girl telling the viewer that her time is up and we see something attack her. As always when these videos appear in movies, my question is: who the hell uploaded the video? Quinn has no time to question this as a demonic Evan appears at the foot of her bed in a jump scare.
Quinn turns on the lights and Evan is now gone. But, she’s freaked out enough that she throws her phone on the ground, stomps on it, and runs out of her apartment. Quinn decides to sleep in her car instead of going to her dad’s house because even seeing monstrous ghosts won’t fix family drama.
The next morning Jordan wakes Quinn up questioning what she’s doing and the two head into the apartment. Jordan spots Quinn’s phone which has great battery life since it’s still alive and displaying a notification from the Countdown app. We learn that Charlie left on a work trip and left a neighbor to watch Jordan but she wants to stay with Quinn.
Quinn turns down Jordan but Jordan has moved on from that plot point and is now looking into the app. After she leaves, Quinn heads to a phone store and purchases a new phone from the manager Derek (played by Tom Segura) in a pretty funny scene.
Quinn requests a completely new phone and refuses to have anything transferred over from the first one. Upon activation, she checks and is relieved the Countdown app doesn’t show up on the new phone. Before she leaves the new phone alerts her that the app has been downloaded. Quinn freaks out and Derek attempts to delete the app but the button won’t work causing Quinn to storm off.
As she leaves one of the other customers in line, Matt (played by Jordan Calloway) asks Derek what app she was referring to. Through her car’s rearview camera Quinn starts seeing visions of the grim reaper-type ghoul and in a jump scare, some demonic-looking hands grab her face. Quinn slams on the gas and reverses into another car whose owner flips out.
Matt comes out of the phone store and threatens the car owner forcing him to leave. Turns out Matt has also downloaded the app and shows Quinn he only has 18 hours to live. Cut to Quinn and Matt at a bar like they didn’t just show us they both have less than a day to live.
The two decide to trick a drunk bar patron into downloading the app so they can read the user agreement. Turns out the user agreement informs the user that they must accept their death time and attempting to change their fate is breaking the agreement. Sounds legally binding to me.
The two head to the hospital and talk to Father David as they believe a demon is behind the app; a statement that got funnier as I wrote it. Father David recommends them someone else and the two head off but before they leave the hospital, Nurse Amy asks to speak with Quinn.
Matt heads to the bathroom where he gets a visit from a ghost child who attacks him. While it’s a pretty good tense horror scene, it loses all of its tension when you remember that Matt isn’t dying until the next day so there’s no reason for you to fear for his safety.
Meanwhile, Amy takes Quinn to an office where Human Resources and Dr. Sullivan are waiting. Were they waiting there the whole day? How did they know Quinn was going to show up on her day off? Why are they ready for this? Anyway turns out Dr. Sullivan is more of a dick than I thought since he has told Human Resources that Quinn sexually assaulted him.
Human Resources decides to suspend Quinn pending an investigation despite the fact that she tells them that Dr. Sullivan is the one who attempted to kiss her.
Quinn angrily leaves and regroups with Matt who doesn’t tell her about the ghost child. The two head to meet with Father David’s recommendation, Father John (played by P.J. Byrne). Apparently, the writer of the movie thought the movie needed another comic relief character because Father John is written to be funny but this time it comes off as awkward, jarring, and is a weird tonal shift.
Despite this, Father John tells them a story of a prince in ancient times who was told his exact time of death by a fortune teller. The time coincided with a battle that was to take place so the prince sent his brother instead, thereby changing his fate. The prince began seeing visions of death but when he returned to the fortune teller, she told him it was actually the demon Ozhin coming to correct his fate.
Father John tells them he believes Ozhin is behind the app but can’t verify it unless they can hack the app and look at the code. Quinn and Matt visit Derek and pay him to delay his tinder date so he can hack the app.
Derek finds the code is full of Latin and discovers the list of users along with how much each person has left. Quinn sees her sister has downloaded the app and her timer matches Quinn’s. Derek changes the amount of time Quinn, Jordan, and Matt have left and we see each of their apps update with the new amounts.
With their new countdowns, Quinn and Matt breathe a sigh of relief and Quinn asks Matt to stay at her place as she doesn’t want to be alone. Matt agrees and a short time later, as he lies down on her floor, he reveals to Quinn that his younger brother died when he was a child. Though he doesn’t say it, we can assume the ghost child he saw in the bathroom was his younger brother’s ghost. We also learn that Quinn’s mom was killed by a drunk driver years ago.
That night as Quinn is asleep, the power goes out and Matt enters the room in time to see her attacked by something demonic. Pulling off the covers the demon is gone but the two see their countdowns have reverted back to the original times giving Matt 2 hours and Quinn/Jordan 4 and a half hours to live.
Meanwhile, we see that Jordan is being stalked by the ghost of her mother at home. Despite it being a creepy scene, again there is no tension because we know the demon won’t kill her for another 4 hours. As Jordan hides under the bed, her mom’s ghost appears in a jump scare demanding to know where Quinn is.
Jordan runs out of the house just as Quinn and Matt arrive and the three head to Father John’s church. After reading the code, Father John decides the best way to beat the demon is to cause the countdown to be wrong. He devises a plan to create a protection circle and keep everyone inside of it for just one second past the next countdown. This should break the curse not just for one person but for everyone affected by it.
Working together the group mix salt and paint and paint a protection circle in the basement of the church. With just two minutes left on Matt’s countdown, the power goes out and the group gets into the circle.
Things start to shake and loud rumbling is heard as the demon shows up but it’s unable to cross the salt line.
A loud ringing is heard and Matt turns around to see his dead brother standing outside of the circle. Despite fully knowing that a demon is trying to kill him and that the demon has used his brother’s ghost in an attack earlier, Matt steps outside the circle to talk to his brother who is obviously Ozhin in disguise. Matt is immediately dragged out of the basement.
Quinn and Jordan chase after him but are knocked down by shelves. While Jordan is pinned, Quinn escapes and runs outside to where Matt has been taken. She finds him in the middle of the street with Ozhin nowhere in sight. Instead of getting out of the street or looking around, Matt tells Quinn the salt circle worked as he believes Ozhin has let him go. He then gets run over by a car and dies.
As Matt’s clock ticks to zero, Father John helps Jordan out of the basement and Quinn realizes Jordan is bleeding. The two rush to the hospital and are treated by Dr. Sullivan. With only 18 minutes left, Quinn devises a plan and speaks with Dr. Sullivan privately where she offers him sexual favors in the closed-off wing.
A few minutes later Dr. Sullivan enters the wing of the hospital and searches for Quinn.
Quinn attacks Sullivan with a crowbar, knocking him down. It becomes apparent her plan is to kill Sullivan in order to change fate as earlier Sullivan downloaded the app and had decades left to live. Quinn is about to inject Sullivan with morphine but is first interrupted by Jordan and then by Ozhin who pulls Sullivan away.
While Jordan, who has 2 minutes left is stalked by Ozhin, Quinn chases after Sullivan, and the two fight. Sullivan escapes with the help of Ozhin, leaving Quinn with an injured ankle. She then spots a cabinet filled with vials of medicine and yes, that stuff would have been cleared out when the hospital wing was closed but shhh, the ending needs to happen.
Quinn grabs some vials and a whiteboard marker and we cut back to Jordan who still had a minute and a half left… how the hell? Ozhin attacks Jordan but Quinn arrives and we see she has a needle filled with whatever was in the vials she found. Ozhin tries to stop her from injecting herself by disguising itself as Quinn’s mom but unlike Matt, Quinn is the main character so that trick won’t work on her.
Quinn injects herself and collapses. Ozhin lifts her up into the air in an attempt to save her, I think? Or maybe it’s extremely confused as to what she did. As Quinn floats in the air, she loses consciousness and dies to Ozhin’s surprise.
Since this breaks the curse, Ozhin freaks out and turns to dust. Quinn falls to the ground and Jordan rushes over where she sees a vial of Narcan has fallen from her hand. She then spots that Quinn has written where to inject her with Narcan and Jordan injects her.
The medicine quickly counteracts whatever Quinn took and brings her back to life. This plan could have gone wrong in so many ways, also pretty sure Narcan can’t bring people back to life. We cut to a short time later with Quinn, Jordan, and their dad at their mom’s grave.
We learn that Dr. Sullivan has been arrested and as we’re about to close on a happy ending, Quinn gets a notification on her phone. The film ends as Quinn checks her phone and sees that the Countdown app version 2 has been downloaded. That’s what you get for allowing push notifications.
In a post-credit scene, we see Derek on his tinder date with Krissy (played by comedian Christina Pazsitsky, also Tom Segura’s real-life wife). The date doesn’t seem to be going well and Krissy excuses herself to the bathroom. Derek gets a notification on his phone as the power starts to go out. We don’t see it but it’s clearly the countdown app and we hear the sound of his countdown changing. The power goes out fully and we hear a demonic growl as we cut to credits.
Interestingly this means that Ozhin or whoever is now in charge of the app doesn’t seem to care about fate and is now killing indiscriminately since earlier we saw that Derek has 32 years left. Or this is payback for Derek hacking the app… or I’m thinking too much into what is clearly a joke scene.
Countdown is good. It has good acting, okay dialogue, and the pacing of the movie works really well. It was a surprisingly good movie; usually, movies with a premise that feels gimmicky are pretty bad. An app that tells you when you’re going to die is very gimmicky but it’s handled well for the most part.
Unfortunately, the premise does also lead to the biggest problem this movie has, there is no tension. Since we know when each character will die because it’s on their app we know they’re safe until then. So when the characters are being haunted by ghosts and the demon, you know they’ll be fine and there’s no reason to fear for the character. Sure the jump scares will get you but a big part of horror comes from not knowing if the character will survive. It’s a spoiler that the movie gives the audience themselves.
Apart from that, most of the scenes where the characters are being stalked by the demon or by a ghost are actually well done. There is great tension build-up and great payoffs. Sure the payoffs are usually jump scares but they’re earned. For example, Jordan is stalked for several minutes before the jump scare happens and that ghost child haunts Matt for several minutes in the bathroom. You could see where it would have been a much more effective horror movie had we not known when anyone was going to die.
The other problem I had with the movie is the weird tonal shift when Father John is introduced. Up until that point the movie had taken itself pretty seriously and it was working. Even Tom Segura’s character felt like a real person so it wasn’t jarring when the scene was funny. But when Father John is introduced it feels like we stepped into a comedy film- and not a good one. To be clear the acting was good but the dialogue just felt like the writer was telling the audience “this is where you have to laugh”, it didn’t feel natural.
Overall I recommend giving Countdown a watch, it’s well-done, entertaining, and feels like a perfectly average movie; it doesn’t want to be one of those artsy pretentious horror movies and doesn’t even want to try.