Countdown is not the best movie you’ll see this year. But it’s far from the worst. If you like horror movies like I do, Countdown has a familiar feel, but does what movies do best. It takes a genre that has seemed tired and tweaks it slightly without reinventing the wheel. With a very Nightmare on Elm Street (the original, not the crapfest remake, sorry Jackie Earle Haley) feel, it takes you on a tight, concise, but well-known trip.

We start off right away with teens at a high school party doing some underage drinking. This quickly evolves into a clever way to introduce our killer app. I won’t spoil anything from the film but how the app works and the forces behind it are pretty different than what I thought going into the film. Countdown stars Elizabeth Lail as the freshly minted nurse, Quinn. Talitha Eliana Bateman stars as her sister, Jordan. Peter Facinelli stars as the Doctor that oversees Quinn. Jordan Calloway stars as Matt, a friend that Quinn meets along her journey trying to avoid certain death from the Countdown app. The film is directed and written by Justin Dec.

A Freshish Journey

From a storytelling standpoint, Countdown doesn’t make broad changes to the horror genre. What it does really well is scare the crap out of you. Most horror movies these days are built upon jump scares like an hour and a half maze at Halloween Horror Nights. Countdown does have those jump scares. But it also has tense moments that build and build. Your blood pressure rises seeing what could be coming and the scares don’t feel cheap very often. It’s rare to see these days with a horror film that has a somewhat inventive premise and the ability to scare you or get you on edge. Usually it’s the Paranormal Activity or Annabelle types that just follow the cookie cutter formula.

The one thing that Countdown doesn’t do as well is make you feel for any of the other main characters besides Quinn. Quinn has the normal “wounds” of a horror movie character. She has had some family tragedy. Her sister is a bit of a rebel and a troubled youth. Her dad is basically nonexistent as a character, he’s just there to move the plot along. What does work well is Elizabeth Lail’s performance as Quinn. She makes you want to care about her story. Her performance is typical of the stronger “last lady” horror films. She doesn’t scream or cry like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween. She fights back against the evil force behind the Countdown app.

A Little Comedy For You

What could be considered the best parts of Countdown both involve comedic scenes. First off, Tom Segura plays the clerk/manager of a cell phone repair shop. The scenes with him are hilarious and do well to break up the scares of the movie. Segura’s comedic timing with the other actors works wonders for the film. He’s one of the brightest spots in the film.

P.J. Byrne plays a charismatic, nerdy, priest perfectly for a stretch in the middle of the film. His comments about the Bible being “the best graphic novel ever” are among the best scenes in the film. Byrne’s character is in the film for far too short of a time and is just forgotten by the time we reach the climax. I wish he would have had a bigger role, but for the time he’s on screen, you’re glued. Jordan Calloway’s character Matt adds a slight romantic element to the film while also fleshing out the dangers of the app.

For a film with a run-time of only 1 hour 30 minutes, you’d think they could include some more scenes with the show stealing characters. But the film also benefits from this run-time because it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The effects in the film aren’t life-changing, but they aren’t horrible. They don’t take away from your experience watching the film.

A Killer App or Waste of Gigs?

The weakest parts of Countdown are definitely where it tries to play serious. The tonal shifts between the comedy and horror styling into the dramatic scenes are jarring. The acting here suffers a bit as well. Not to The Room levels of drama, but you can tell the actors aren’t at their best doing the dramatic explanations of why they’re in bad situations. Some of the scenes feel like they’re only there to further the plot and not add anything to the characters.

Another thing that bogs down the film a bit is a subplot with Quinn and the Doctor that she serves under. It needlessly shoe horns in a sexual harassment plot that doesn’t add anything to the film. You don’t even get paid off as a viewer for how Facinelli’s character turns out at the end of the film. They could have done without these parts of the film. But they don’t completely detract from the film. They show how Quinn is vulnerable and strong all at the same time.

Countdown Clock Is At Zero

Overall, Countdown is a film that won’t change the genre in a way that Scream, Halloween, or Night of the Living Dead did. It’s a fun, Halloween season film that’ll give you some scares. It’ll surprisingly make you laugh at bits and pieces, but you won’t feel like you’re longing for more after. It’s a good blend of all the things that make horror great without changing too much. I’ll give the film a 7.5/10. It’s frighteningly scary at certain points, so you scare-chasers will get your kicks. But for people who just want to see a good horror movie this October season, it works too. Countdown releases October 25th in theatres.

Also for a good kick and to get ready for the film, you can download the Countdown app on your phone to see when you’ll die! I can’t guarantee that evil forces of darkness will hold you to that contract, but it’s a fun way to promote the film.

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All images are courtesy of STX Entertainment.