Countdown (***1/2) is a great movie for PG-13

Countdown – 2019

Written and Directed by Justin Dec
Starring Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, Talitha Bateman, Tichina Arnold, P.J. Byrne, Peter Facinelli, Anne Winters, Tom Segura

Countdown shows us how to make the almost perfect PG-13 movie. In that there is only a limited amount of scares, almost no skin (like it matters) and a cast that is almost unknown. There is a pretty miraculous and specific reason for this: the film has one writer and director. It just happens to be the same person of Justin Dec, whom I have never heard of, but look forward to seeing more.

The story is about an app that gives one the date and time of their death. The film gives a few examples of how the application has an unerring skill at getting the timing right, whether the person wants it to be or not. Whenever the person tries to avert their fate, they are notified that they violated the terms and something comes to help seal it for them.

We meet Quinn Harris (Lail) just as she’s meeting one of the app’s victims who is getting ready for surgery. She’s just passed her course to become a nurse and is positive that the patient must be wrong. After she downloads the app, the guy dies, then she starts to worry. She’s due to expire within the week. On her way to getting a new phone (she can’t delete the app), she meets Matt (Calloway). They discover that the app downloads itself onto her new phone and then they seek out other options.

These options are not unfamiliar in the religious sense. They are interesting, though. A knowledge of hacking and the Latin language is used to help provide hope. The characters of the tech store owner geek Derek (comedian Segura) and Father John (Byrne) are played for laughs effectively and they don’t overstay their welcome.

Dec shows a good talent for pacing, scene building and placement of the camera. He also has a lively effective and fresh cast. Only Facinelli is someone I could have picked out of a lineup before today, but the whole cast is worth remembering. There are plenty of things we’ve seen before, but the director doesn’t belabor the cliche, he moves fast and with purpose.

There are better films. There are scarier films. If you want to entertain two 13 year olds on a Sunday in October, you could do a lot worse.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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