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'Anything for Jackson' Review: That time grandpa and grandma summoned a demon

Justin G. Dyck's 'Anything for Jackson' proves that summoning the undead is anything but a young persons' game.

A story is read in 'Anything for Jackson.'
(Image: © Shudder)

Our Verdict

'Anything for Jackson' is another take on the perils of falling victim to dark magic's cure for what ails your heart, one that executes infallibly when spectral dangers intensify with haste.

For

  • 🐦 Scares that stick.
  • 🐦 A trim screenplay.
  • 🐦 Standout occult touches.
  • 🐦 Not soft-spoken.

Against

  • 🐦 Familiarity exists.
  • 🐦 Can be difficult to track "visitors."

Don’t let director Justin G. Dyck’s thirty-plus title resume fool you. The cheerbringer behind countless made-for-TV Christmas specials can weaponize grief and the occult alongside horror’s heaviest hitters. Anything for Jackson is about loss, devastation, and unlocking the Gates of Hell to reunite with a lost soul. Two elderly grandparents will stop at nothing to embrace their grandchild once again, and Keith Cooper’s screenplay is unapologetically bleak. Resurrection comes with a price, and Dyck has no problem shedding his holiday jubilation for some vile, remorseless, sucker-punch creep outs when it comes to his senior citizen Satanists.

Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry (Julian Richings) Walsh keep appearances as pleasant old townsfolk. Henry is a local physician, Audrey ever the polite neighbor, except for one little quirk. Ever since the loss of Audrey’s grandson Jackson (Daxton William Lund), they’ve devoted their lives to studying heretic rituals that can bring their precious boy back to life. In particular, they’ve kidnapped pregnant Shannon (Konstantina Mantelos) to perform a “Reverse Exorcism” in hopes Jackson will be reborn. Can their community center devil-worshipping club help them pull off the unthinkable? Or will their meddling with thousand-year-old tomes bring upon certain doom?

Whether or not fans of Dyck and Cooper’s festive catalog knew they bottled such a mean-streak, the dynamic duo aren’t on the outside of horror fandom looking inward. Anything for Jackson is viscerally revolting, upsetting, and straight-up gutty when it comes to torturing Audrey, Henry, or both at once. Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings are superb as aged hostage-takers who dabble in underworld incantations like they’re reading another Julia Child recipe. McCarthy is so hospitable, so empathetic, and Richings is so proper, so rigid, despite their painting of pentagrams in cursed blood or such blasphemous acts. Enter sickening gore, demonic minions, and nightmarish, stick-with-you imagery.

The concept of a “Reverse Exorcism” isn’t groundbreaking. Practicing heathens have long captured virgins or expecting mothers to rebirth their dark lord or decease relative or what have you through sacrificial means. Anything for Jackson separates itself by enlisting contortionist Troy James and other actors as spectral invaders jockeying for a new host. Vagabond spirits who haunt by trick ‘r treating out of season, turn dental hygiene into gruesome practical traumatization, or attempt to claw their way inside Shannon. The stakes keep elevating, punching viewer tickets into a funhouse of ghouls while Dyck never loses monstrous momentum. Shocks come at a premium, as Audrey and Henry realize their mistranslation has called upon the wrong agent of sin.

In parts, one senses a likeness to Annabelle Comes Home and Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil. The former based on this rotating cast of reanimated deadheads and newly-executed freshies who off themselves brutally in front of Henry. The latter in its homely, goofy touches, like Henry and Audrey attending black-hooded meetings in public shared spaces like some after-school summoning circle. Although, Anything for Jackson never laces strands of comedy. Dyck fixates on his crow-beaked ferryman who preys upon the wrinkle-weary fools now consulting their metalhead meeting-buddy Ian (Josh Cruddas) to more carefully inspect their cultist cookbook obtained from shady contacts in Jerusalem. Fear, comeuppance, and damnation are in tall order, as Dyck seamlessly parallels the Walshs’ do-it-yourself necromancy master planning with the ongoing events to minimize exposition dumps.

Anything for Jackson is a cutthroat, scare-ya-stiff, no-frills example of spooky season storytelling. Justin G. Dyck isn’t rewriting genre trends or navigating unforeseen territories. Above anything, Anything for Jackson is an effective and efficient horror narrative that builds upon feverous anticipation as complications threaten an already off-the-rails operation. Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings maneuver the emotional pratfalls that befall their characters, in-tune with the weight of their decisions despite welcoming innocents to the slaughter. A rarer brand of horror that contemplates its characters’ consequences while unleashing the so-called beast over and over. A thriller, a chiller, and an all-around nasty little movie night filler.

Anything for Jackson will be available to stream on Shudder December 3rd, 2020.