Anything for Jackson is an occult horror movie from director Justin G. Dyck and is another small, but effective creeper in the genre, using it to address themes of grief and loss.
Anything for Jackson’s focus is on the ‘denial’ stage. A mild-mannered elderly couple, Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry (Julian Richings), wracked by the loss of their daughter and grandson, hit upon a plan to resurrect the eponymous Jackson with a little assist from the forces of darkness. They kidnap a young pregnant woman, Becker (Konstantina Mantelos), and imprison her in their spare room. Using a thousand-year-old book of spells and incantations, they plan to hijack the birth and switch the soul of their grandson with that of the newborn. And if that last part sounds a little familiar, it’s because it is essentially the same plot as Ghostbusters 2!
But the similarities end there, although Anything for Jackson is loaded with a twisted sense humour. There are moments of levity to be had in contrasting Audrey and Henry’s matter-of-fact suburban lifestyle, with the ancient and terrifying tasks they intend to perform.
But it would be an error to classify Anything for Jackson as comedy, because its approach is overall serious, strongly affirming itself as a horror movie. Things begin subtly with Audrey casually dropping hints about their beliefs into conversation. She chides Becker for using Christian terminology in a way that is offhand, yet loaded with suspicious undertone; and as events ramp up things get nicely weird and creepy.
Although Rosemary’s Baby might be the first movie you think of when ‘normal’ folks start cosying up to Lucifer, as the police investigate Becker’s disappearance and Henry scrambles to cover their tracks Anything for Jackson brings to mind a much different movie – the Coen Brothers’ sublime, noir-ish Fargo, and not just because of the snow. Henry could be the twin to William H. Macy’s Fargo character Jerry Lundegaard, fumbling with his words and watching in horror as his meticulously laid plans unravel like cheap thread.
Things don’t always work, however. There is the occasional early reliance on cheap ‘loud noise’ scares that is disappointing, and the final act is a little muddy. But the negatives are outweighed by the positives; the fact is that Anything for Jackson has some nice, unnerving sequences up its sleeve.
Crucially, Anything for Jackson is held together by a very fine cast. McCarthy and Richings come across like your alternate universe grandparents – disarmingly friendly in the face of their despicable pursuits. Instead of offering you a cup of tea, it’s an exchange with Satan. They carry dogged faith in a process they have no real understanding of, highlighting the power of denial when fuelled by something as primal as bereavement.
As a rule, it’s hard to go wrong with the sinister cabal / Satan worshipping genre – and Anything for Jackson is no exception. It balances its light and dark sides nicely and comes out the other side as one of 2020’s better horror movies.
‘Anything for Jackson’ will be streaming on Shudder (U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, and via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle where available) from December 3rd.