Writer/director Justin Dec reworks and updates a Final Destination style horror for the Snapchat generation with a slasher movie revolving around a ‘Death App’ that literally counts down the days a person has left to live. The film starts off in typical style with a bunch of teenagers playing a drinking game. One of them dares the rest to download the app and soon enough the pack mentality insidiously pressures even the most reluctant to take part. Of course, that one teenage girl has the least time left, and is imminently taken out. Her boyfriend ends up at the hospital and passes the curse on to recently registered nurse Quinn (Elizabeth Lail) and her male colleagues played by Charlie McDermott and Peter Facinelli. The men have years to live and Quinn less than three days.
Dec clocks exactly what makes a fun teen horror. In many ways this is a throwback to the late 90s/early 00s era of genre filmmaking with a banging soundtrack and brutal kills. The addition of smartphones refreshes the formula; however, technology isn’t the main enemy, with the real terror rooted in human behaviour and demonic entities. Just like Final Destination, young people are confronted with their mortality but instead of premonitions of their demise they are greeted by past traumas.
The ‘Countdown’ app hilariously and incessantly screeches notifications like a funhouse ride, reminding users that they are violating the terms and conditions. Dec further dials up the humour with supporting characters such as a Lil Nas X loving priest gamely played by PJ Byrne and the appearance of comedian Tom Segura as a snarky tech geek who tries to write a workaround across Latin coding. With the additional help of love interest and fellow app user, Matt (Jordan Calloway) Quinn eventually grasps the rules and how to bend them.
Lail is terrific in the lead role and gets a satisfying one liner for the ages, with the film tapping into themes such as the #timesup movement and the moral implications behind the monetisation of the health-care system. Countdown teases the most out of its 90-minute run time, blending deadly serious and enjoyable horror in equal measure.