Shudder UK film review: Anything for Jackson
Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings!9
Neat genre inversions7
Anton Bitel | On 03, Dec 2020
Director: Justin G Dyck
Cast: Sheila McCarthy, Julian Richings, Konstantina Mantelos, Josh Cruddas, Yannick Bisson
Watch Anything for Jackson online in the UK: Shudder UK
Satanists come with their own stereotype. The picture that they present in the popular imagination usually goes something like this: young, male, long hair, black leather, listens to heavy metal, incel. What you probably do not picture – unless your internal iconography is dominated by Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby – is a kindly old couple. Yet the main characters in Anything for Jackson are Audrey and Henry Walsh – played by national treasures of Canadian cinema Sheila McCarthy (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, Antiviral) and Julian Richings (Cube, Septic Man) – and while they certainly are Satanists, they wish no harm upon anyone. They do what they do entirely out of love, both for each other and for their late grandson Jackson (Daxton William Lund), whom they are desperately trying to bring back through black magic.
So Anything for Jackson is a film that operates on inversions. Not only are the Satanists here nice grandparents, but they abduct pregnant Shannon Becker (Konstantina Mantelos) to perform a kind of reverse exorcism on her, summoning a demon to help the ghost of Jackson possess her unborn child so that he can be born again. There is a genuine sweetness at the core of this feature from director Justin G Dyck and writer Keith Cooper, whose previous filmography has (not uncoincidentally) comprised made-for-TV Hallmark-style romances and Christmas movies. This too is a Christmas movie of sorts, not that the Walshes like Jesus being mentioned in their home. For Dyck and Cooper are also inverting their own template, as the Walshes’ plans for a wholesome mid-winter family reunion are played incongruously to the ritualised tune of Liam Gavin’s A Dark Song, before acquiring a bloody body count and heading towards The Mist levels of apocalyptic mayhem.
After Audrey and Henry conduct a necromantic rite from an ancient grimoire without fully understanding what they are doing, they inadvertently open a portal to the other side, and find their lovely suburban home being visited by a number of insistent and frightening spectres, all looking for a way into our world. Meanwhile, there’s a murder of crows congregating outside, while friendly, sad snow remover Rory (Yannick Bisson) will not leave the couple alone, and Detective Bellows (Lanette Ware) is circling in on Henry who, as Shannon’s doctor, is the last person to have seen her before her disappearance.
One of the Walshes’ associates, Ian (Josh Cruddas), does conform more to the popular type of the Satanist – a young, creepy, greasy, friendless, misogynistic recluse who avoids eye contact, lives in his mother’s basement and has steeped himself obsessively in demonic lore. As Audrey and Henry turn to him for help in a situation that is rapidly spiralling out of control, it will become clear that, for all its smart subversion of tropes, Anything for Jackson still subscribes to the fundamental principle that you play with the devil at your own peril. The Walshes may have good intentions, but what they do has deadly, harrowing consequences, not just for them, but possibly for the world beyond their suburban home. The result is a very dark comedy that gradually slides into pure pandemonium.
Anything for Jackson is available to stream online on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership.