Countdown to Halloween Part 3 - Always Read the Terms and Conditions
Countdown | Directed by Justin Dec | 2019 | Horror | PG-13 | 1 H 30 M
By Jocelyn Illing
You are a nurse who learns that one of your patients had an accident in their stairwell to the hospital. You are concerned, but also suspicious. There has been an app going around, claiming to predict people’s deaths, so you decide to investigate. You go into the patient’s room and take his phone from his personal effects, but oh no, it’s locked. What do you do? Obviously, you take the phone down to the morgue, find his body, and test different identification techniques until you unlock the phone. Is this okay procedure? Probably not. Does it showcase the determination of Justin Dec’s Countdown’s heroine Quinn Harris (Elizabeth Lail)’s determination in the fight to cheat the app, and therefore death? Yes.
The premise of Countdown, as you may already be able to tell, is quite simple. Quinn is your typical horror movie blonde, a nurse who has recently acquired her license. During her congratulatory cake-break, she and her co-workers discuss the new phone application that supposedly predicts when you are going to die. Quinn and her co-workers are mostly skeptical about the legitimacy of the app, claiming that not only is impossible to predict one’s death but it’s also unnatural. However, later in the day as she receives an invitation to join the app by one of her co-workers, Quinn’s curiosity gets the better of her and she creates an account. The only problem? She skipped through the terms and conditions, the rules of the app which help to determine her fate.
What I liked about this film is that it doesn’t seem to be trying to hard. It knows that it’s a commercial horror movie with a catchy premise and uses that premise to keep the audience engaged. Although not all of the characters are thoroughly fleshed out, they all have redeeming qualities which make us root for them; Quinn is a health care worker trying to report her creepy boss; Jordan is her little sister, grieving after their mother’s death; and Matt is… the hot guy that keeps Quinn company? (I should mention that one of the main tropes in American horror movie’s is conventionally beautiful people. Countdown ticked off that box).
Like many other horror films of the past five years, Countdown’s villain takes its form in a piece of technology. Through this framing, the film is commenting, rather comically, on the dangers of technology. We all know that no one reads the terms and conditions for they are too long, too boring, and we assume that there won’t be any consequences for skipping them. Countdown’s argument seems to suggest that we really need to think hard about the information we are giving to websites and phone apps, for there indeed will be consequences down the road.
In the end, the film comes down to two essential questions, one philosophical and one not so much. It first asks the viewers that if you could learn the exact date you will die, would you want to know? I think this is a rather interesting conversation for it causes one to think of what they would do if they knew when they were going to die. Would they live their life to the fullest, or crumble and count down the days? The film also asks, in the digital age, what are the consequences of not reading the terms and conditions? Yes, death is a bit of an exaggerated consequence, but it gets us thinking about how we often give our information to companies without thinking.
While the film itself was not particularly scary (minimal jump scares, not really any gore, semi-creepy looking demons), the plot was interesting enough to capture my attention and make watch the entire film. Countdown is an easy watch, but not a regrettable watch.