If you were to ask me to name a demographic that isn’t seen as often in the horror genre, I’d probably say the elderly. They are out there. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) killed it in Halloween (2018), Elise (Lin Shaye) has banished multiple demons in the Insidious franchise, and John Russell (George C. Scott) dealt with the ghost that haunted his estate in The Changeling (1980). And now we can add Anything for Jackson (2020) to that roster.
Directed by Justin G Dyck and written by Keith Cooper, Anything for Jackson focuses on an elderly couple who have decided to dabble in the works of Satan. Their dark goal is to find a pregnant woman whose unborn child they can use to resurrect the spirit of their deceased grandson. They achieve the goal of procuring a pregnant woman and completing the ritual to open the door for their grandson’s soul to replace the soul of the unborn child but as it usually goes with opening these sort of doors, the intended spirit isn’t the only one who wants to pass through.
Anything for Jackson is layered with the passage of life, but in reverse when it comes the importance of the characters. We start near the later stages of life as we are introduced to Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry (Julian Richings). These characters were given little quirks to properly state their age, including using a lancet device to prick a finger to draw blood for a ritual, and seeing Audrey complete a social media interaction while using two cell phones, and discovering what “DTF” stands for.
Soon, we are introduced to Becker (Konstantina Mantelos) who represents the young adult stage of life. She’s a pregnant, youthful woman whose acceptance of her surprise pregnancy gives a natural warmth to the character. And of course, the unborn child, as well as the Walsh’s dead grandson come into play, bringing us back to the earliest stages of life. Becker and the unborn child are nothing but plot points in this story, though, as the focus is clearly on the Walsh’s and their desire to be reunited with their grandchild.
Justin G Dyck creates a nice mixture of quirky yet sullen comedy as well as deep, dark places that the psyche goes during aging and during loss. Creating this mixture represents what aging does to us all, and while what the Walshes are doing to Becker is horrible, I began to see them as the protagonists of the story instead of the villains. This is their story of loss to reclaim some sort of semblance of youth in the form of their lost grandson. The nearly pitch-perfect performances from McCarthy and Richings enrich the story. They could have easily just been nasty devil worshipers, but they are instead portrayed as normal human beings just doing everything they can to repair their family.
There are some solid scares mixed in throughout the film too, involving spirits attempting to possess Becker’s unborn child. Each spirit that presents itself to the bound woman (or each new spirit that the energy in the Walsh’s house gains) contribute to the shocks that the film needed to keep the horror high. There are moments that had me grinding my teeth, and I won’t be ashamed to admit that I had to look away from the screen once. I fully expected to not experience any gore as it didn’t seem the story would lend itself to that, yet, blood splatters and moments of tooth related nastiness work their way onto the screen. It’s not gore for gore’s sake, though. These moments lend themselves to the story, and when they do occur they’re wholly unexpected.
I feel comfortable in saying that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a film like Anything for Jackson. It has a brand new feel with how it executes its story. Instead of priests trying to exorcise an individual tied down to a bed, we have an elderly couple trying to do the opposite. Its focus on an elderly couple whose journey injects the urgency of love while committing heinous acts heightens the stakes as well as the feels. One part bleak comedy, one part haunted house, one part surprise splatter film, and one part possession tale, Anything for Jackson provides a plethora of anything goes within the film’s experience.
Anything for Jackson is available exclusively on Shudder now! Let us know what you thought of this unique, reverse-possession film over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.