Life in the 21st century can be unpredictable; the only certain things are death and data usage. Meshing the unstoppable force of modern phone popularity with the immovable object of our own mortality, the new horror film Countdown, out Oct. 25, features a downloadable app that predicts users' deaths — some select few coming far sooner than others... as in mere hours. While technology's covered nearly every element of our lives, could Countdown be based on a real app? Digital death counters have been around nearly as long as the internet, but Countdown managed to beat reality at its own game with this one.
The ticking clock in Countdown isn't adapting a real app, but it has inspired one that's caused quite a stir. After watching the trailer, developer Ryan Boyling built and uploaded a random generator death app that looks exactly like the one in the film. Variety reports that STXFilms, which produced Countdown, initially had nothing to do with it, and the app was pulled from the Apple app store after only a few days. Boyling said he was told it was "too minimalistic," though Apple offered no official reason. But after Countdown proved to be a huge success with users, STX acquired the app from Boyling. There's a version available on Android, and per the Variety piece, STX was attempting to get it back up on Apple. (As of the publication of this article, it looks like it's back up and holding steady in the top 10 downloads.)
The app store page includes a disclaimer that reads, "This app is for entertainment purposes. Results should not be taken seriously."
Still, Countdown's tagline "Death? There's an app for that" wasn't exactly pulled from thin air. There have been online death counters almost as long as the internet's been in use. The oldest and most straightforward is The Death Clock, a website that's been up since at least 1998. Unlike Countdown's number, which is completely random, The Death Clock asks for your gender, age, BMI, and whether you smoke, offering three options for outcome: optimistic, pessimistic, and sadistic (which assures you you've already died, no matter what you enter). Almost a decade later came another Death Clock, throwing in your alcohol consumption, location, and offering a few more life outlooks.
With new technology comes new formats, and learning about the timing of one's potential demise has gone portable. Apps available include cartoonishly grim When Will I Die?, Apple Watch-inspired Time Left (more of a memento mori than calculator), and the appropriately named Deadline. Countdown implies more sinister machinations in its trailer, with a friend who scans code realizing that everyone who has downloaded it is in danger of death by virtue of downloading.
There's also WeCroak, not any kind of counter but instead a digital and unexpected reminder of death amid life. The idea isn't to bring you down while you're having fun, but instead, offer a gentle nudge reminding you that, no matter what you do, no matter the choices you make, we all have a beginning and therefore an end — and it's coming sooner than we'd like to believe. Or, as Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk put it, "on a long enough timeline, everyone's survival rate drops to zero."
So in the spirit of memento mori, enjoy the fact you're aware and reading this right now. Whatever you choose to do with your precious remaining time, Countdown comes out this Friday, just in time for Halloween.