ANYTHING FOR JACKSON movie poster | ©2020 Shudder/Vortex Media

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON movie poster | ©2020 Shudder/Vortex Media

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Sheila McCarthy, Julian Richings, Konstantina Mantelos, Josh Cruddas, Yannick Bisson, Lanette Ware, Daxton William Lund
Writer: Keith Cooper
Director: Justin G. Dyck
Distributor: Shudder/Vortex Media
Release Date: December 3, 2020

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON is described in its publicity materials as a “reverse exorcism” story. That’s broadly true, although not quite what we might envision.

Older couple Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry Walsh (Julian Richings) are Satanists, but they’re not trying to find a vessel for their Dark Lord or any of his minions. They just want to bring their little grandson Jackson (Daxton William Lund) back to this world in a new body.

In order to do this, obstetrician Henry kidnaps very pregnant patient Shannon Becker (Konstantina Mantelos). He and Audrey shackle Becker to a bed in an upstairs room of their large house and try to sort out the relevant ritual from an ancient book they have obtained. It doesn’t take long for everything to go very wrong, with all sorts of ghosts and demons (not to mention problematic other humans) getting into the mix.

Director Justin G. Dyck and writer Keith Cooper have a sound plot structure. They put ANYTHING FOR JACKSON’s supernatural bona fides on the table up front, so nobody spends valuable screen time wondering if what’s going on is all in somebody’s mind. The film is scary and tragic, but has some hilarious touches, such as where the Satanists meet and how Audrey and Henry initially explain themselves to Becker.

The filmmakers start by establishing the relationship between Henry and Audrey, then cut to the chase. Flashbacks address questions we may have about certain details as needed. Almost everything is set up well, so that when various events occur, they feel like payoffs. One exception to this is why certain characters are affected sooner than others – most aspects of the story are set up so well that this is an odd omission.

The primary location, the Walsh home, is able to be cozy and menacing, at times simultaneously. The otherworldly beings are suitably terrifying, even though, or perhaps because, they are rendered with simplicity. The snowy exteriors add to the mood.

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON also creates unexpected tension in our feelings about the characters. We’re rooting for Becker to free herself, of course, but Audrey and Henry are surprisingly sympathetic. McCarthy and Richings have the gentle vibe of a long-in-love couple. Both give heartfelt and well-nuanced performances. The more we learn about their characters, the more we want them to reverse course, for their own sake, as well as for Becker’s.

Mantelos is expressive as the desperate captive, who goes back and forth between terror and astonishment. Josh Cruddas is suitably shady as a cranky Satanist, and Yannick Bisson brings folksy charm to his determined handyman.

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON is one of those horror movies that doesn’t need a big budget to work. It has scares, brains, humor, and even heart.

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