Anything For Jackson (2020)

Director: Justin G Dyck
Starring: Sheila McCarthy, Julian Richings, Konstantina Mantelos . Canada. 1h 37m

Every now and again a movie creeps along as it reminds us what horror is really about, touching on sensitive subjects and delivering shocks, scares and a creeping dread which lingers long after the movie. One of these precious gems hasn’t arrived for a few years but somehow, coming straight from leftfield, a rom com director has re written the step by step guide on how to fuck with an audience and it’s done with a cool calm style in this occult horror nightmare.

Looking through Dyck’s directorial history I wasn’t surprised that I hadn’t heard of him before, and thought maybe there are two directors with the same name, with titles like Love By Accident and Christmas Exchange under his belt, this seems to be a little different, but kudos has to be paid to Duck for stepping up and showing the supposed experts on how to get that harrowing feeling back on the big screen, although it’s not all down to him, there’s a huge influence from writer/screenwriter Keith Cooper, who has a touch of Silent Hill under his belt and a lot of vivid scary ideas.

On the surface Anything for Jackson is a story about two grieving grandparents who just want their grandson back and being life long Satanist they are more than happy to use dark forces to do this. This is enough and you can already see how the movie writes itself but there’s so much more than this and it’s the series of reactions to their dark arts which raises so many questions and gives so many layers to this intelligent chilling tale.

Opening with a breakfast scene, Audrey Walsh (McCarthy) and her doting husband Dr Henry Walsh (Richings) are having a casual chat about the hemming of his trousers when suddenly a kidnapped woman is bounded out of truck and taken to their spare room in the attic and strapped to the bed, they test the soundproofing and their no inkling of her screaming from the street so the begin their dark ritual.

It seems the loving pair lost their grandson and are hoping to bring him back using an ancient grimoire to prefer a reverse exorcism and put his spirit into the body of a newborn. But as they being to enact the run up spell crafting they resurrect a few dead birds and also begin to populate their home with spine chilling ghosts and entities and it becomes a race to get to the final ritual before the police catch up to them over the missing pregnant woman chained up in their home or the outlandish specter and demonic forces come for them.

So much of the movie rides on the facial expressions of Julian Richings, he’s always been so easily recognisable for his chiseled features even under prosthetics you can tell which mutant he plays in Wrong Turn (2003), but the ever accomplished Brit is such a pleasure to behold as he struggles to poise himself as a doting doctor, a concerned neighbor and all the time he’s a evil Satanist, or is he? As the movie throws many a curved ball the perception of the grieving grandparents changes time and time again. Initially we believe that they are really accomplished with their sorcery but they do have to enact the help of a fellow cult member, Ian (Cruddas) who’s the embodiment of the overgrown Satanic manchild that many people equate them too. He listens to Black Metal and lives in his mothers basement with an incredibly unique haircut and colour, it’s always the ginger kid right?

There’s certain point in the opening of the movie when you notice that the couple aren’t quite normal, there’s another key moment when you realise the rituals are actually working but not in the intended way, and as all of these little moments work up to a really impressive breakdown towards the end, there’s an imposing atmosphere and remarkable shift as all the best laid plans start to go awry.

The amazing home of the elderly couple is really luxurious, with a lift and a classical modern design but as the number of entities increases it seems to close in on itself, and they are crafted without too many special effects and more practical effects, which in my opinion is a total blessing and really honors the genre. A creepy kid with a sheet on turns into a It Follows (2014) styled oversized menace, it’s the least scary of the ghosts and yet it would make me pee my pants, but as the array of others turn up, included a flossing gran and a Black guy who seemed to have met a grisly death and seems determined to scare the life out of everyone with the exorcist crab walk and a demonic gnawing, the movie slowly becomes an endurance test of the players and the audience and it’s worth noting that you should keep an eye out for 3 “secret” ghostly characters that aren’t too obvious and a black cat statue which are used/added by the crew for extra bonus points.

“Unsettling” is the keyword for Anything For Jackson, and as things progress you realise that this couple live up to the title and will literally move Hell and Earth for their grandson even if it means opening up their home to all the forces of hell and living with them until they get him back. I do wonder how we’re supposed to feel about this satanic panic couple, at first they seem a bit evil, but they don’t threaten to do bad things for the sake of being evil, everything is being done out of pure love and the fact their miss their grandson, but is this really the way? Grief is a mighty powerful emotion which causes a lot of people to go beyond what is normal to make things better, to make the pain go away, another classic example of an occult recovery is in the equally epic A Dark Song by the wonderful Liam Gavin and the two films would easily make a great film night if you dare.

Rating: 8/10

Related: A Dark Song (2016)
List: Occult A-Z
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