The recent horror film Countdown features a literal killer app, but the concept failed to impress critics, leading to lots of negative reviews. Of all the various movie genres that exist, horror may well boast the most films, for two primary, if cynical reasons. The first is that the horror audience is both very loyal and very hungry for new content. Horror fans will often go to see the latest horror film simply because it's horror, which leads into reason two, that horror usually doesn't cost much to produce. Horror films generally don't require big name stars or fancy visual effects sequences to be effective.
Of course, while being horror might be enough to get fans in the door, it can also sink a film fast once bad word of mouth begins to spread among the genre community. Also not helping any film is bad critic reviews, unless of course it's a property so popular that it's essentially critic-proof. That's certainly not the case for an original horror effort like Countdown, which has been relentlessly slammed by critics.
Sporting a cheeky tagline of "Death? There's an app for that," Countdown's trailers made it seem like something that might at least end up being so bad it's good. According to critics though, Countdown is so bad it's terrible. Here's a sampling of some of the negative reviews of Countdown.
The AV Club
The whole thing plays like a logline unconvincingly stretched and twisted into an actual movie, as though someone procrastinated on planning for their meeting with a producer and then bullshitted a whole pitch in the 15 minutes beforehand. Forget cheating death. In Countdown, it’s the audience that really gets cheated.
Writer-director Dec's feature debut plays out on the screen like the generic hokum it is, never finding its own flavor as it sets characters up against their impending, impossible-to-avoid deaths. A subplot involving a sexual predator (Peter Facinelli) in Quinn's workplace has a bit more to offer the film than is initially apparent, but is less satisfying in the end than it might have been — as is the plot's final resolution, which would be nicely tidy if not for an eye-rolling coda in which the filmmakers predictably reveal their thirst for a sequel.
“Countdown” moves at a fair clip. But it’s the kind of pacing that feels not exciting but pushy, as if afraid you’ll notice otherwise how flimsy the writing is, and how non-existent the atmospherics. With its bright, flat look, the film feels televisual, with no personality allowed to creep into the competent but generic packaging elements. If the leads are fine under the circumstances, several support performances border on caricature in unamusing ways.
Despite its contemporary sass and thoroughly modern technological threat, “Countdown” adheres to classic, often predictable narrative beats. Dec nearly works his film out of the conundrum with his ability to poke fun at a genre he clearly loves, but “Countdown” sags back into the old ways soon enough. The movie arrives at an eye-roll inducing final twist, and hints at an inevitable sequel. But this app isn’t exactly begging for an upgrade.
As can be seen in the excerpts above, Countdown is earning critical ire for sporting a plot that's poorly planned and executed, a ridiculous final twist, and a needless sequel hook for a follow-up unlikely to materialize. Another big problem is that it mostly sticks to predictable horror beats, and feels like a generic entry into the genre without anything new or striking to offer. Countdown's PG-13 rating also works against it.
And jump scares are basically all the movie has going for it. It's a PG-13 movie, which means the most horrible things all take place off-screen and with limited gore. The cast is also relatively small for your average horror movie, so there simply aren't a lot of significant deaths to be created within the story. If you're looking for creativity in that realm, you won't find it.
Even on its own very, very basic terms, there are just too many scenes where characters act with utterly illogical idiocy, especially in the final act. Rather than screaming for them to go the other way, you’ll be urging them to accept fate and die instead.
Interestingly, Countdown appears to be another case of critical and fan divide, as while the film has only a 26 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, its audience score is a much higher 70 percent. While not even horror fans are claiming Countdown is a great movie, it seems that what it had to offer, even if standard horror thrills, was enough for many looking to just see a scary movie around Halloween.