Using cell phones in horror movies isn't anything new, but Countdown is trying to tweak the concept to be a bit less serious while simultaneously more fun. Written and directed by Justin Dec in his feature film debut (though he previously worked as a production assistant on numerous movies), Countdown stars Elizabeth Lail as Quinn Harris, Talitha Bateman as Jordan Harris, Jordan Calloway as Matt Monroe, and more - and the movie sees them attempt to cheat death.
Countdown is a low-budget horror movie from STX Entertainment and producers such as Zack Schiller, Sean Anders, and John Morris, who've come together to deliver something they all believe will be an enjoyable thrill ride, something that isn't bogged down with over-complexities and humorlessness. Sometimes horror movies can be a mixed bag of dread and comedy, which can be seen in some of the producers' other films, namely Netflix and McG's The Babysitter.
Back in May, Screen Rant was invited to the set of Countdown along with a handful of other entertainment outlets. Practically everything was filmed on pre-built sets in Chatsworth, CA, except for the exterior shots, which were done in the surrounding area. This ultimately allowed the production team to keep costs down - and it seemed to work in their favor, as they absolutely used everything at their disposal. So audiences may recognize some locations from other properties out there.
Taking on a Final Destination-esque vibe, Countdown sees the main characters try to avoid dying after an app tells them the exact second they are supposed to meet their end. Considering that apps can provide information as well as predictions on a variety of things in people's daily lives, the idea of Countdown is, what if an app can give you "the ultimate prediction, but that information comes with a price"? Countdown began with that notion as its impetus before morphing into a story that isn't just about the app.
An app that kills people isn't too exciting for a horror movie and only retreads what other films have done in the past, but that's why there's an underlying, supernatural element at the core of Countdown. As seen in Countdown's trailer, a demon stalks and kills people who use the app - or, more specifically, those who break the app's user agreement. In this particular case, Quinn sees that she only has three days left to live and decides to cancel all her plans on that third day in order to prevent her untimely death, which sets the demon loose on her. (Countdown's demon is an entirely practical creation, using costumes and makeup from KNB EFX's Howard Berger.)
Though specific details regarding the demon itself haven't been revealed, what's clear is that the demon is associated with an ancient curse that has modernized itself into the Countdown app. (It's a bit like Jumanji becoming a video game in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.) Of course, the only way to win out, in the end, is to confront the demon (or demons), which may have been happening in one scene that we saw on set. During our set visit, we saw the first and second unit teams filming a climactic scene between Quinn and her mother (or perhaps the demon impersonating her mother), a scene in which the demon drags Quinn's younger sister Jordan down a hallway, and a final scene with the demon attempting to break a barrier.
Overall, Countdown is a high-concept movie that aims to bridge the gap between horror and comedy with its modern take on a curse that unleashes a demon on people who want to know when they're going to die. From our set visit, the movie looks like a blend of ideas from various horror movies from the 2000s but with a tinge of modernness to it. It's very much a film that's led by people who are self-aware of what they're doing; Countdown is not trying to be something that it's not.