Anything for Jackson Review
“No one has more time than grieving grandparents” – Audrey Walsh
We all say we love our family, and would do anything for them. But as the title of this horror suggests, Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry (Julian Richings) Walsh really will do anything in order to bring their grandson Jackson back from the dead. Finding an ancient dusty book from Jerusalem — bought off a guy who was only too happy to rid himself of the material — they decide to perform a reverse exorcism order to imbue a pregnant woman with the spirit of their dead grandchild.
Their unwitting victim is the soon-to-be single mother Shannon (Konstantina Mantelos) who they lure to their house and capture in a great opening one-take that expertly blends horror with banality. They are otherwise kind and loving people, taking care of each other and saying nice things to the poor kidnappee — they’ve just happened to have brokered a deal with none other than Satan himself. And making a deal with Satan is not something that should be entered into on a whim…
Sprinkling just the right amount of comedy throughout to add levity to an otherwise gruesome premise, the Canadian horror Anything for Jackson is a funny and sharp reverse take on The Exorcist that examines familial trauma and the possibility of reincarnation. But the old couple has more than they bargained for in the presence of a local detective (Lanette Ware), doggedly in pursuit of the missing woman. Then there’s the very practical issue of actually performing the ritual, leaving them to rope in weirdo Ian (Josh Cruddas). He disapproves of their methods but is happy to take part, having prepared for such an occasion his entire life.
By locating the film’s horrors within a realistic context, including somewhat believable performances from the couple itself — who are ordinary in every other way — Anything for Jackson gets a lot of mileage out of the practical elements and challenges of performing a ritual such as this. Cutting down the self-seriousness that has plagued a lot of modern horrors, which are often more obsessed with the theme of the film than providing a genuine freak-show, the film provides a refreshing naturalist take on how this kind of thing might be performed by normal people, as well as the ways that it can easily backfire.
While the reverse-exorcism itself doesn’t quite reach the heights of classic horror, director Justin G. Dyck — usually found directing about five Christmas TV movies for a year — has a strong eye for getting both horror and comic beats out of the same scene, as well as clearly laying out the problematic theological implications. Appearing to be his first horror film, it shows the ways in which you can use your experience creating traditional families and their run-of-the-mill dilemmas to then subvert them to a deeply creepy effect. Perhaps this signals the end of his (quite established, with about 20 films) TV movie career and the start of something more promising!