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Family Movie Review: Countdown (PG-13)

The constant loud noises and jump scares of ‘Countdown’ are only enjoyable for truly novice horror watchers.

Kernel Rating: 2.5 out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG-13      Length: 90 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 13+. This horror movie about an app that lets you know when you’re going to die mainly contains a fair amount of surprising violence, including shocking deaths along the lines of the “Final Destination” series, attacks by monsters, beatings and other bloody moments, along with a scene where a man tries to force himself upon a woman. The movie also has a very strong anti-drunk-driving message and depicts the danger and irresponsibility of that practice; adults and teens drink and drug use is suggested; frequent cursing; characters kiss and are implied to be sleeping together.

By Roxana Hadadi

Following the tradition of other films like “The Ring” and “Final Destination,” which warn viewers of being too curious about death, “Countdown” focuses on an app that alerts users of the exact instance of their death once they download and use the app. Although extremely formulaic with its loud noises and jump scares, “Countdown” is an acceptable-enough choice this Halloween for tweens and teens experiencing their first horror movie.

Countdown2 ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewAs in many similarly conceived predecessors, “Countdown” asks the question of what you would do if you learned when you were about to die. Would you be afraid? Accepting? Try to change it? The teens and adults in “Countdown” are often victims of peer pressure and deadly curiosity, downloading and installing the app although they’ve heard about its dangers. There might be a message in “Countdown” about the harmful lure of technology and the damaging effects it can have on one’s individuality and decision-making skills, and parents taking tweens to “Countdown” could perhaps raise those questions after the film’s fairly brisk 90-minute run time. 

“Countdown” cycles through a number of characters, and the setup for each individual is often the same: The person learns of what the app can do, downloads it, is shocked to realize they only have hours or days left to live, and then try to avoid or subvert what the app tells them. A teenager avoids getting into a car driven by her drunk boyfriend; a nurse avoids the relentless flirtation of an overbearing doctor. Each of them ends up with the app on their phones, and each of them is informed that they have broken the “user agreement”—and must die. 

Ghosts, demons, and visions of dead loved ones all appear. A priest is consulted. There’s an attempted exorcism of a phone! “Countdown” leans into some of the more ridiculous aspects of an already-ridiculous story, and although this will mostly be goofy for adult viewers, there are some low-level scares that will impact younger viewers. The relentlessness of the app is unsettling; the malevolent forces are sometimes spooky; and the film at least incorporates other real-life horrors into the story, like the irresponsibility of drunk driving and the prevalence of sexual violence. Those subplots add some balance to the story so that it’s not all scenes of terrified young women staring in shock at their phones.

But still, that is mostly what “Countdown” is: terrified young women staring in shock at their phones! None of this is particularly memorable or imaginative, but it’s satisfyingly low-impact. Younger viewers will be spooked and might learn a lesson or two about containing their curiosity and behaving responsibly, and for the adults accompanying those tweens or teens, at least the movie is only 90 minutes.

 Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.  

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