Sunday, February 23, 2020

Opening in Brazil: Countdown

Yes, this cursed app is the work of demonic forces, but its still not as evil as Huawei. It foretells the time of downloaders’ death, but any attempt to alter its prophecies makes it ferociously angry. Those with impending dooms who try to cheat fate are in for some uncanny torment in Justin Dec’s Countdown, which opens this week in Brazil (having recently released on DVD here in the U.S.).

The victim of the prologue reluctantly downloads the “Countdown” app after succumbing to drunken peer pressure. That’s never a good idea in horror movies. Even though she refuses her inebriated boyfriend’s offer of a ride home, she still perishes in a freak accident. That rather makes him a believer, since he did indeed plow his car into a tree. It turns out his countdown is nearly up too. RN-in-training Quinn Harris tries to talk sense to him, but he inevitably dies at the precisely foretold second as well. That rather unnerves her, since she also has the infernal app at this point—and it says she only has a matter of days.

Of course, everyone is downloading Countdown, so she soon finds another short-timer to team up with. She and Matt Monroe seek salvation from cell phone stores and the Catholic Church. In this case, the latter is more helpful, but only after they find a pop-culture fanboy Father who self-taught himself demonological lore.

In fact, it is when Father John finally appears that Countdown really starts to perk up. Arguably, the first act is largely derivative of the Final Destination franchise. However, P.J. Byrne’s likably loopy portrayal of the good Father and his character’s intriguing exorcism strategies crank up the energy and taps into some deep Blatty-esque good vs. evil themes.

Frankly, the supporting players consistently outshine the bland leads. Elizabeth Lail is certainly earnest enough as Harris and she has a nice deadpan scene with a really ugly drunk, but it is Byrne’s Father John and Tom Segura snarking up the screen as Derek the cellphone guy whom viewers will really remember. Peter Facinelli is also appropriately loathsome and slimy as Harris’s Weinstein-esque ER doctor.

This is definitely a grubby of-the-moment B-movie, but Dec’s screenplay has some surprisingly clever moments. Countdown will never be remembered as a cultural significant crossover film, but it still punches above its weight-class for horror fans. Consider it a guilty pleasure. Countdown is recommended for who can appreciate a slick, modestly budgeted wireless-demonic Reese’s cup when it opens this Thursday (2/27) in Brazil—and it is currently available on DVD in the U.S.