ANYTHING FOR JACKSON (2020)
Directed by Justin G. Dyck
Written by Keith Cooper
Starring Sheila McCarthy, Julian Richings, Konstantina Mantelos, Josh Cruddas, Yannick Bisson, Mikaela Bisson, Claire Cavalheiro, Scott Cavalheiro, Jayne Eastwood, Troy James, Ai Barrett, Ryan Christopher Kotack, Rebecca Lamarche, Kaitlyn Leeb, Daxton William Lund, Marianne Sawchuk, Calwyn Shurgold, Kyle Sipkens, Lanette Ware
Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry Walsh (Julian Richings) are an aged couple who lost their grandchild Jackson in an accident not long ago. The couple also happen to be Satanists and come into possession of an ancient book which casts a spell to summon a demon to make a deal to bring the boy back to them. But they need a body. It just so happens that Henry is an OBGYN and when Becker (Konstantina Mantelos) shows up to his clinic with an unwanted pregnancy, he thinks he has found a way to find a newborn to house his lost grandson’s soul. After kidnapping Becker and performing the ritual, it seems the Walsh’s might have screwed up the spell and opened a portal for demons to attack their home.
Director Justin G. Dyck and writer Keith Cooper have delivered an original film about demonic spells, exorcisms, and the occult. The film focuses on two seemingly harmless protagonists and flipping expectations to make them desperately diabolical. The thing is the reasoning behind all of the crimes and sins the Walsh’s commit is a sympathetic one. Sure, they are making one horrible misstep after another to get what they want, but the film really does a great job in communicating why these two people would do what they are doing to get their grandson back. The premise is so convincing because Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings are so good in their roles as the Walsh’s. While we’ve seen these actors in many films and TV shows, ANYTHING FOR JACKSON really allows them to shine. Richings and McCarthy have played both sympathetic and sinister characters. Here they play much meatier roles than they usually get, giving them reasons for their devious actions. You feel for the plight of the Walsh’s, even though they are kidnapping and casting spells with demons. You actually feel for them as they bumble through their misdeeds and show that they are, at their heart, good people forced to do horrible things.
ANYTHING FOR JACKSON has fun with the plethora of demons that do escape during the incantation. Troy James, recently seen in BLACK BOX and played the Jangly Man in SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK and Pretzel Jack in CHANNEL ZERO, does his usual schtick of walking backwards on his hands and contorting his body as a ghost covered in plastic. Just as Javier Botet’s act is getting stale, so is Troy James’ act. I feel these contortionists end up doing the same thing in a different costume if they aren’t directed properly. Still, James’ scenes as the spastic demon wrapped in plastic are unnerving. Adding to the odd variety of ghosts and goblins are a sheet-wearing ghost which grows and shrinks and an old hag who flosses so fervently that her teeth fall out. All of these apparitions make for some effective scare sequences and stand out as looking quite original.
While I don’t know how or where they would have put the information, I would have liked to have seen how the Walsh’s came into Satanism. It’s interesting that this film shifts the perspective and tells the story of ROSEMARY’S BABY, but from the side of the neighbors the Castevets, rather than Rosemary herself. A little insight as to how they decided to follow the dark arts and how they came to the idea of making a deal with the devil would have answered some of the questions and filled out the lead character’s backstory a bit more. Still, this film pares away most of the fluff and gets right down to the point of the kidnapping, the ritual, and its after effects, not really bothering with extra discourse.
ANYTHING FOR JACKSON is an unconventional tale of desperation. It proves to be one of those films that is impossible to predict and given the amount of safe horror out there, it’s refreshing to see a film like this. From solid performances, unexpected twists, and horrifying scares, ANYTHING FOR JACKSON takes anything but the tried and true path.