- Katie Bell
Countdown - 2019
Updated: Apr 26, 2020
Remember when you saw Shrek as a child and you had no idea what your parents were laughing at? Then you grew up and watched it again and had a huge realisation about all the adult jokes in the film? Well, Countdown is this...but for teenagers. It's made about young people, for young people...whilst simultaneously making fun of young people, for old people. Essentially, there's something for everyone...unless you're a child...don't watch it if you're a child.
This film is about a mobile application named 'Countdown', that once installed, launches a countdown timer telling the user the precise number of years/days/hours/minutes/seconds until they die. It's a simple concept. But it works. Kind of. Plenty of people download this app in the film, and (SPOILER?) plenty of people die. So where do we start? At a party of course! You can see it now: teenagers, red cups, truth or dare and some teenage girl rabbiting on about counting calories. Of course, she recruits her minions to join the calorie counting craze by searching for the application that she uses ('Countdown to Skinny'). Lo and behold, they stumble across 'Countdown' instead and dare each other to install it. Of course, whoever has the least amount of time to live, not only has to deal with the inevitable trauma of death, but also "losing the dare" and having to drink everyone's alcoholic beverages. At this point, I'm rolling my eyes. However, after the opening act, it does get better. Like I said earlier, for every moment that appeals to people who can relate to these behaviours, there are moments for the eye rollers. Midway through this film, someone walks out behind a reversing car, whilst reading the screen of their phone and exclaims, "Watch where you're going. Stupid bitch". Our lead (Quinn Harris) lectures a patient at the hospital not to go into the off-limits ward because, "there's asbestos and lead and God knows what else," in there...but then leads another character back there for sexy times later in the film...because nothing is better than sex...EXCEPT sex in a room filled with asbestos! It sounds stupid. But these aren't stupid plot points. They are included on purpose, to make those people who aren't drinking out of red cups and playing truth or dare, laugh at those who are.
This film is aggressive in its delivery of messages, which is usually something that I'm not on board with, but given the way that this movie is written, I feel it is somewhat more appropriate than it might be in other films. First of all, there is the message to read the user agreements/terms and conditions when you download an application to your phone. We get repeated shots of people blindly accepting and receiving notifications regarding their breaking of these terms and conditions. We also get more jokes about the idiocy of our protagonist, who lectures others on reading the terms and conditions, but fails to read them properly herself. The irony is fabulous. This film is also strong in the delivery of its message not to drink and drive. Not only are there scenes dedicated to it, there are also stories told about it. My favourite moment in regards to this message is when one astute teenager opts to walk home, rather than be driven by their intoxicated boyfriend. However, instead of responding well to this news, boyfy exclaims, "I hate it when you do this!" Do what boyfy? Choose life? You make me laugh. Finally, it isn't so much a message, but we have particularly inappropriate workplace behaviour between a character with power (who obviously hasn't brushed up on the Code of Conduct this year...or just decent behaviour in general) and our protagonist. All of these are relevant and appropriate messages for audience members of all ages...but I'm not sure this film was very convincing in its argument for us to read the terms and conditions on our apps before we install them...I mean...maybe that's just me?
My favourite parts of this film were the two supporting characters: Father John (P.J. Byrne) and Derek (Tom Segura). They are hilarious. Both of them have stellar line delivery and in the scenes when they are on the screen, not only is the pace good, but the jokes land. I will be doing my research on these performers and stalking their IMDB credits to find other worthwhile watches.
Obviously, this film is a horror/thriller. If I'm totally honest, I'm useless in all films: I cry when I'm sad; I cry when I'm happy; I jump when I'm scared; my teeth chatter when I'm nervous; and occasionally, on a really good jump scare, I'll emit an uncontrollable, but nevertheless irritating little shriek of fear. This horror/thriller got two baby jumps out of me. No shrieks. No genuine fear. Some of the jump scares just didn't work the way that they were likely supposed to. The result being something more of a comedy than a horror/thriller and look, there's nothing wrong with that. I love a horredy. It's the reason why, as a young teenager, I fell in love with Scream (#bestofbothworlds). But I'm not sure that that's how this film was marketed or how it was intended. It had its moments, but I wouldn't call this film scary...and I'm a 7/10 on the "easy to scare" scale.
Finally, I will admit, that although this film has moments of comedy (two particularly funny characters and a fair few jokes at the expense of young people) it also has plenty of moments of cliche or stupid plotting. The kind of stuff that is predictable, forced or makes you roll your eyes. These were the moments when I remembered my initial impressions that this would not be a good film, and sighed in exasperation. Luckily, there was just enough comedy for me to find the experience somewhat enjoyable...but I'm still glad the tickets were free.
I was honestly expecting this film to be rubbish, and surprisingly, it isn't totally. It is refreshingly aware of what it is and who its target audience is. Which makes it kind of alright, in some ways? I laughed at some of the jokes, (particularly those making fun of teenagers), but was cognisant of the fact that many young people would have wholeheartedly enjoyed this film for offering something relevant to them. This feels more convoluted than any of my other vague finishing paragraphs. Should you see this film in the cinema? Nah. Should you invite around some friends and laugh at the stupidity of the characters. Yeah, for sure!