Anything for Jackson REVIEW – A Poignant Horror Debut

A wonderfully crafted indie horror, with effective scares and poignant themes.

Anything for Jackson
Still from movie

Anything for Jackson isn’t director Justin G. Dyck’s first rodeo, but it’s a curious thing to see a director who has mostly dealt in Christmas, family-friendly movies dive into something in the opposite direction. Considering the outcome of the film, it would appear that Dyck’s experience in the comedic, heartfelt spaces of Christmas films allowed him to truly do justice to his characters and the themes that Anything for Jackson explores.

When we begin the film, we are introduced to Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry Walsh (Julian Richings), who are in the midst of starting their day. They bicker fondly with each other, very much like a couple who have been together for many years, and that’s the only moment of normalcy the film allows. After that, everything descends into chaos, as the couple kidnap one of Henry’s pregnant patients, in the hopes of performing a reverse exorcism on her, so that they can get their grandson Jackson back. Henry and Audrey aren’t evil people, but through them, we see the boundaries people are willing to cross in the name of grief and love.

As they keep the pregnant mother Becker (Konstantina Mantelos) stashed away in what I assume is the attic, which they have soundproofed, indicating that this isn’t some spontaneous decision, Audrey and Henry are forced to maintain appearances by carrying on with their days. We sometimes get flashbacks to the past, to see how things got to this point, and how they would even know how to perform a reverse exorcism. We discover that they have become satanists, and from there, they tracked down an ancient book that had the requisite information to help them in their task.

It is interesting how both acknowledge the moral quandary that they are in, and the futility in doing anything about it because they feel that there is no other choice. For Audrey, her losses are overwhelming, and all she cares about is recovering a semblance of what she’s lost. Henry has less of a stake in all this; while he is grieving just as much as Audrey is, he doesn’t feel as compelled to reinstate what has been lost, he is participating because he loves his wife so much.

Can you imagine, to damn yourself in a deal with the devil, all because you couldn’t bear to see your loved one suffer anymore? This allows the couple to feel so relatable, and what I especially love about the film is that we find our sympathies with them as much as they are with Becker. We want her to escape, but we also understand Audrey and Henry’s actions. McCarthy and Richings are excellent in their roles, and truly convey the familiarity and authenticity of their couplehood.

Anything for Jackson also delivers on the scares, with some horrifying sequences I won’t soon forget, like the contortionist and some solid creature effects. While I am not a fan of jump scares, these were not cheaply delivered, with every escalation expertly crafted. Josh Cruddas’ Ian, who mostly appears in the last act, is so effectively creepy as a Satan worshipper with incel behaviour. There is a consistent feeling of him not being right in the head, though the couple have no choice but to turn to him because of his knowledge in these dark arts.

As the last act descends into chaos, it won’t be a conclusion you can easily stomach. But the truth is, it could end no other way – there are consequences for our choices and the things we do. Anything for Jackson understands the circumstances of grief and despair, but encourages us not to give in to it. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should, and the Walshes learn this in the most gruesome, unforgettable way.

Review screener provided

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Anything for Jackson
With superb performances from McCarthy and Richings, Anything for Jackson is a poignant examination of grief, and the lengths we would go to assuage that.