Netflix Cyber Thriller Is A Chilling Race Against The Clock

By Robert Scucci | Published

Horror movies have a tendency to only appeal to a niche audience because of their graphic nature and troubling premises. Thanks to movies like Countdown, you can experience all of the tried-and-true horror tropes without losing too much sleep. Boasting a PG-13 rating and straightforward plot, Countdown is a solid entry-point for potential horror fans to get their feet wet without scarring themselves for life, and audiences wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. 

Countdown Embraces A Simple Premise

If you’re a seasoned horror aficionado, you may not be impressed by the story set forth in Countdown. By the same token, if you’re tired of watching horror movies by yourself, your friends may very well reassess the genre and have their curiosity piqued by the film’s simple narrative and modern take on a classic storyline. 

Killer App

Countdown wastes no time establishing its story and setting its tone. The primary antagonist comes in the form of a cell phone app that tells its users the exact time they’ll meet their grisly fate. 

No One Reads The Terms Of Service

After a group of teenagers download the Countdown app at a house party, mistaking it for a calorie-counting app, we’re introduced to the film’s first casualty, Courtney. Finding out that she only has 3 hours left to live, Courtney decides not to get into the passenger seat because her boyfriend, Evan, is too drunk to drive. Since she was supposed to die in a car accident, the Countdown app tells her that she broke the terms of service, and she’s then hunted down by an unknown entity that will claim her life before the opening title card even presents itself. 

Race Against Time

Countdown’s narrative then shifts its focus to Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail), a registered nurse who downloads the same app after treating Evan, who survived the car crash. Initially downloading the app to quell Evan’s superstitions, she learns that she only has two days left to live. Though she doesn’t believe it at first, Evan mysteriously gets thrown down a stairwell by the same entity, which lines up with the countdown he had on his cell phone. 

The rest of Countdown leans very heavily into the zero-hour trope in which Quinn has to figure out how to break the app’s curse before she meets a similar fate. 

Embraces The Absurdity Of Horror

Though Countdown doesn’t necessarily offer anything new to the horror genre, it leans into its limitations through its use of comic relief. When Quinn brings her cell phone to a tech worker named Derek (Tom Segura), he offers to hack her device for a nominal fee but makes it clear that he couldn’t care less about her predicament because he’s running late for a Tinder date. When Derek’s efforts prove to be ineffective, Quinn then seeks help from an eccentric priest and demonologist named Father John, who snacks on Communion wafers while blasting hip-hop inside of his church. 

Audiences Made Countdown Incredibly Profitable

Upon its 2019 release, Countdown was commercially successful but critically panned. While it saw $48 million in box office earnings against its reported budget of $6.5 million, it received a 26 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. Countdown’s low critical score was mostly attributed to its overuse of jump-scares, making it just one of many horror films that rely on style over substance. 

It’s worth noting, however, that Countdown also has a 72 percent audience score across more than a thousand reviews. Those who enjoyed the movie were fans of the jump-scares, straight-forward plot, and Elizabeth Lail’s performance. 

Available Now On Netflix

In other words, if you’re a jaded horror fan who wants to see something new, Countdown may not be your top choice. But at the end of the day, it’s a well-executed PG-13 horror movie that does a great job leaning into the very tropes that a more seasoned horror fan would typically scoff at. And since most of the violence takes place off-screen, you can easily stream this cyber-thriller on Netflix without upsetting your family.