Countdown (2 stars)

Countdown

App-themed horror which combines decent gags and frights with a tendency toward silliness and cliches

It was all just a matter of time. After horror movies about phones (When a Stranger Calls), mobile phones (Cell) and social media (Unfriended), app-themed variations were surely just a click away. Despite some solid jump-scares, a sense of inevitability overshadows writer-director Justin Dec's daft debut feature, in which an app that predicts your demise turns out to be scarily proactive about enforcing that death date.

Dec has a likeable-enough lead in Elizabeth Lail (from Netflix's You); she's playing Quinn, a young nurse who blithely downloads the countdown-to-death app – it's all the morbid rage, bizarrely, among the film's teens and doctors. Duly, she realises her card is marked, as is that of her stroppy teenage sister Jordan (Talitha Bateman). A race against time to beat the app begins, with Quinn helped by the similarly doomed Matt (Jordan Calloway).

Dec's influences are plain to see, ranging from the Final Destination series to sundry stalk-and-slaughter movies (Scream et al) and curse films like Ring. Ring-tone might have been a better title, but Dec does manage to dial up a few twists on genre formulae. The slasher movie tendency to 'punish' sexually active women receives a Time's Up-era upgrade. The shocks, meanwhile, are well-paced enough to satisfy sleepover audiences with a hunger for hokum.

Comic relief is equally well-administered: Tom Segura is amusingly toxic as a phone shop salesman from hell, while PJ Byrne revels in the role of a high-fiving priest who nerds out on demonology. But lapses into silliness, expedient plotting and cliche finally scupper Countdown's wi-fright intentions. Despite some nicely played initial glimpses, the demonic threat is neither ingeniously designed nor intense enough to carry the film. Worse, the phone logic rings false. If expecting audiences to accept demonically possessed iPhones is one thing, a scene where a mobile works right over the counter is fanciful indeed.

General release from Fri 25 Oct.

Countdown

  • 2 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 30min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Justin Dec
  • Written by: Justin Dec
  • Cast: Elizabeth Lail, Anne Winters, Charlie McDermott

Quinn (Lail) is a young nurse who gets an app for her phone that predicts the date of your death. Daft debut feature from writer-director Dec, in which a few twists on genre formulae and some comic relief aren’t enough to redeem the silliness and general lack of logic.

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