After losing their only grandson in a car accident, grief-stricken Audrey and Henry, a doctor, kidnaps his pregnant patient with the intention of performing a “Reverse Exorcism”, putting Jackson inside her unborn child.
It doesn’t take long to figure out Jackson isn’t the only ghost the grandparents invited into their home. Now it’s a race against time for the couple, as well as the pregnant woman to figure a way out of the haunting they’ve set upon themselves.
Anything for Jackson is easily one of the most surprising horror films of 2020. On the face of it there’s plenty of black magic, haunting and casual satanism. But underneath are a pair of warm, likeable and at times comedic leads.
The film is brilliantly anchored in it’s first two acts by Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Dr. Henry Walsh (Julian Richings). The pair play elderly grandparents grieving the recent loss of their grandson, the titular Jackson. The opening scene brilliantly depicts this loving couple living their everyday life, that is until they step out the door and kidnaps the pregnant Shannon Becker (Konstantina Mantelos).
In an instant Anything for Jackson lifts the mask to reveal something much more sinister. The pair has concocted a plan to resurrect their grandson in the body of Shannon’s unborn child. A reverse exorcism as it were. In these early scenes Keith Cooper’s screenplay totally zings. The characters feel note perfect and the borderline humour which comes from their meticulous planning really sets the film apart.
Their palatial house is kitted out with a soundproof basement room. They’ve got their stories straight (for now) and they’re even getting to grips with modern technology to keep their fictional narrative in place.
Cooper’s screenplay also packs a punch with its pacing. There’s never too long to linger on the slower moments. We’re soon up to speed with all the major players and events are in motion. The first speed bump comes when Henry is caught in a lie by Detective Bellows (Lanette Ware).
There’s a definite sense of unravelling as the narrative powers on. But whilst the bodies begin to pile up, the film remains focussed on the relationships between Audrey, Henry and Shannon.
After attempting to perform an invocation the pair accidentally open the doors to purgatory and flood their house (and its surroundings) with plenty of weird and wonderful spirits. Anything for Jackson continues to set itself apart from the pack by invoking as many different types of haunting as it can within it’s 1hr 37 mins timeframe.
The film is at its best when utilising a Halloween themed child ghost which brings back memories for Audrey and when utilising the amazing practical effect of Troy James’ contortions. His suffocation victim brings back memories of frame-skipping Japanese horror of the early 00’s at its best.
Only in its third act does Anything for Jackson fall somewhat off the rails. With the body count growing and the couple becoming ever desperate they turn to local Satanist Ian (Josh Cruddas) for support. Whilst his character does appear earlier in the film he’s a little under-baked and his motivations remain a mystery despite become an integral piece at the end of the puzzle.
The character-centric opening gives way to more of a classic exorcism-horror in the final moments. An open-ending also brings the film full circle to more familiar territory. Whilst I would have liked to see those strong foundations through to the end, there’s no denying that Anything for Jackson is a satisfying watch throughout.
Anything for Jackson is both supremely creepy and heartwarming in its portrayal of two desperate grandparents desperate to make amends.
Anything for Jackson is written by Keith Cooper, directed by Justin G. Dyck and stars Sheila McCarthy, Julian Richings, Konstantina Mantelos, Lanette Ware, Josh Cruddas and Troy James.