Elizabeth Lail stars in a scene from the movie “Countdown.” (CNS photo/STXfilms)

NEW YORK (CNS) — Viewers may marvel at the efficiency and ingenuity it took to get a few authentic jolts into “Countdown” (STX). The movie is part of a loose genre of haunted-phone films.

Here, there’s a demon-possessed cellphone app. Once downloaded, it’s impossible to cancel or hack, and it quickly spits up a series of numbers informing its owner, down to the second, how much time he or she has left before death.

Okey-doke! Who needs Angry Birds now?


For people who get their sell-by countdown date decades ahead, no problem. But for those who discover that they’ll perish in two or three days — never mind the means — there’s sorrow, woe and anxiety.

A fiend named Ozhin (an uncredited Dirk Rogers) is behind it all. He lurks about, looking like a black-shrouded refugee from a Halloween party, and likes to cackle.

As in the “Saw” franchise, writer-director Justin Dec adds an element of moral justice to the fatalities. All the victims, or potential victims, have wronged an immediate family member who has since died, all labor under the burden of guilt that accompanies their betrayal, and the departed become budget-priced hallucinations.

There also are, as is common in the genre, a couple of feckless priests. Father David (Valente Rodriguez), when consulted, announces: “God has a plan for all of us. It’s not really for us to question when.” Gee, thanks!

Quirky Father John (P.J. Byrne) proves more helpful, thanks to his vast (and we’re talking immense) rectory library of musty supernatural reference books, through which he tracks the origins of the fatal app to an ancient gypsy curse. He comes up with a way to keep Ozhin at bay, at least temporarily, though his methods are occult rather than Catholic.


Plucky nurse Quinn (Elizabeth Lail) becomes Ozhin’s chief opponent, defending her younger sister, Jordan (Talitha Bateman), while fending off the sexual harassment of her lecherous boss, Dr. Sullivan (Peter Facinelli).

The cherished old “How do we trick the devil?” plot twist comes into play eventually.

“Countdown” is quite clearly aimed with precision at teens. Yet the amount of vulgar talk included in the dialogue precludes its endorsement for them.

The film contains an occult theme, some gore, brief physical violence, a few profanities and frequent crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.


Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.