Anything For Jackson is a really fun horror film that takes its relatively thin premise, what if a well-to-do elderly couple were Satanists and started messing with demons to bring a loved one back to life? and mines it for entertainment gold!
The film rather amusingly opens with well-spoken, entirely middle-to-upper-class elderly couple Henry and Audrey Walsh having a mundane conversation in their kitchen before both walking off, creating the impression of the average suburban older neighbours we all have. The still camera, fixed in the same position, then chillingly captures the two doddering geriatrics (who aren’t as old as I’m making them seem) dragging a woman kicking and screaming into the house against her will.
Already, then, it’s made clear that Justin G. Dyck’s black comedy will be playing up the incongruity between the conventionally appearing old couple and their incredibly evil, yet undeniably tragic humanely desperate actions. One minute we’re seeing the couple knock their captive out with a hammer, the next we’re seeing Henry struggling to find his keys with Audrey knowing exactly where they are. They’re so relatable yet so monstrous as a result.
We learn that they have kidnapped Shannon Becker (Konstantina Mantelos), a single mother who got pregnant by accident, because they intend to use a satanic ritual to bring back to life their deceased grandson, the titular and effortlessly cute, yet incredibly creepy young boy, Jackson (Daxton William Lund), who will use Becker’s unborn baby as a host for his spirit.
But as is often the case with dark forces we can’t possibly imagine or hope to control we quickly learn that, in true Icarus fashion, our couple are in way over their heads for what they’re about to unleash, despite all of their earnest preparations and carefully constructed backstories. What follows is a comedy of errors and a number of horrific complications for our bumbling yet well-meaning pair.
It isn’t all black comedy though as Dyck manages to deftly tow the line between out-and-out comedy and the film’s emotional driving force – the tragedy of human loss and how emotionally devastating that can be for what’s left behind. Both Audrey and Henry are stoically resigned to their course of action being the only solution and, despite being reluctant, are resolute in following it through, not because they’re evil, but rather that their pain is too great they have no other choice.
We see this in their interactions with Becker, who tries every trick in the book she can think of to appeal to their better nature. The pair know they’ve crossed a line but they do what they can to make Becker comfortable in order to try and regain some morality, but despite their reluctance they, perhaps, admirably never waver. By doing so the films two central leads, played brilliantly by Shiela McCarthy and Julian Richings, are rather tragic, yet entirely relatable figures.
As a result, you do hope that the narrative will find some way to resolve itself that leaves Becker safe and happy with her newborn and the Walshs finding a way to live with their grief. But naturally Anything For Jackson as a film, and the dark forces at play in the narrative aren’t interested in wrapping things up in a nice bow for a happy ending.
That’s because their actions have released a plethora of vengeful spirits that are all vying for a spot in Becker’s unborn baby, with the film presenting a variety of scary figures that haunt our characters throughout and provide the scares for us in the audience. These ghosts are all brilliantly designed and varied, ranging from Jackson himself and a trick or treat ghost in a Halloween-esque white sheet that grows terrifyingly large, to a discontortioned suffocating ghost and an older woman who flosses her teeth out.
These ghosts lay claim to the lives of many of the human characters who find themselves inadvertently getting involved in the satanic scheme, from the cheery handyman clearing snow, who jovially delivers a message from a demon before plunging his head into a snowmachine and the cop hot on the tail of the couple and their kidnapping who is forced to keep shooting herself over and over.
By the time you throw wannabe Satanist with dark proclivities Ian (Josh Cruddas) into the mix, you have yourself quite a tense climax, set in the multi-storied house that’s now full of ghosts and demons, that leaves you wondering if the Walshes will go actually through with their plan when they realise they have to kill their victim and if Becker will escape and who, or what, ends up inhabiting the body of the her unborn baby.
Anything For Jackson is many things. It’s a haunted house movie bringing us a variety of scares with a number of ghosts and monsters. It’s a black comedy about the dark lengths people will go through to stop their own grief or pain. But above all of that it carries a heavy emotional heart at its core that elevates the whole thing into something more bitter-sweet, something more tragic.
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