Written by: Matt Patti | December 7th, 2020
Anything for Jackson (Justin G. Dyck, 2020) 2½ out of 4 stars.
How far would you go to bring a dead family member back? Would you resort to extreme measures? A unique horror venture, Anything for Jackson features an elderly satanist couple at its core that is dealing with a death in the family. The grieving couple have recently lost their grandson, Jackson, in a car accident. The Walshes’ love for Jackson is so great that they are willing to do anything to get their grandson back, even if it involves using an ancient book of satanic rituals to do so.
Anything for Jackson begins with the elderly couple – Henry Walsh, a doctor, played by Julian Richings (True Fiction), and his wife, Audrey Walsh, played by Sheila McCarthy (Isabelle) – kidnapping a young, pregnant mother named Shannon and tying her to a bed in the upstairs of their old home. Confused and terrified, Shannon (Konstantina Mantelos) is to be used as a new mother for their deceased grandson Jackson. How, you ask? Reverse exorcism. Audrey performs a ritual that is supposed to place the spirit of Jackson into Shannon’s unborn baby’s body. However, the Walshes end up getting more than they bargained for, as the ritual summons other ghosts and tormented souls that are also looking for a host to possess once again.
The premise of Anything for Jackson is its selling point that draws viewers in but is surprisingly not its strongest appeal. There is actually little exploration of Jackson and little emotional investment in the family throughout the film outside of one scene that touches on what happened to the Walshes’ daughter. The film’s strengths turn out to be the chemistry between Richings and McCarthy as Henry and Audrey, respectively. Their performances seem real and grounded even for the outrageous situation the film depicts. Both Henry and Audrey are very careful throughout the film and take the utmost precautions to conceal what they are doing and to do it right. The threat of neighbors, coworkers and others finding out what the Walshes are up to keeps the viewer on edge as many uncomfortable situations and close calls take place throughout the film.
Anything for Jackson also achieves good tension through its horror elements. The ghosts that are accidentally conjured up in Audrey’s ritual are all intriguing and quite creepy, although they don’t get enough screen time. There are many scenes in which chilling events happen in the background of the frame and catch the viewer off guard (if they see it), a popular tactic in recent horror films that usually works well and does so here, mostly. There are a few jump scares in the film, but not too many, as most of the suspense and scare factor are achieved via earned tension through genuinely frightening situations, specifically the disturbing looking ghosts trying to enter a vessel.
Anything for Jackson does suffer from some strange pacing, however. The film never really feels like it flows and at some points seems like a bunch of often-unrelated scenes strung together. There are also flashbacks that reveal more about the story but are placed in such awkward places that they confuse the viewer and take away from the film’s earned tension. There are many elements of the plot that are predictable, such as some of the jump scares, but that doesn’t detract from the horror too much since what results after each jump scare is often terrifying enough. Some of the plot details don’t make sense, though, and that does take away from the horror.
Overall, though, Anything for Jackson is an enjoyable, suspenseful and unique horror film. The performances of Richings and McCarthy and their chemistry as the Walshes hold the viewer’s attention and the creepy appearances and actions of the spirits in their house keep tension high. Though the film falters in several areas, it doesn’t fall too far. The one thing that would make the film really soar would be establishing the emotional connection between the elderly couple and their grandson Jackson a bit more and exploring Jackson himself, as well. However, with the interesting characters, good performances and well-built suspense, it is nonetheless still satisfying.