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Film Review: Anything for Jackson (2020)

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SYNOPSIS:

A bereaved Satanist couple kidnap a pregnant woman so they can use an ancient spellbook to put their dead grandson’s spirit into her unborn child but end up summoning more than they bargained for.

REVIEW:

I love going into a film and having my expectations turned upside down for the better. That feeling of being surprised by a well-crafted story is a rare event, and something I truly enjoy having. Anything for Jackson catches you off-guard with an innocuous couple of minutes, leading you to believe you’re about to endure a pretty timid and boring affair, but once it surprises and delights you with its darkly dry humor, creepy demons and lovable antagonists, you can’t help but want their grandson back inside the poor victim’s unborn child.

Writer, Keith Cooper crafted a delightfully dark and, at times, bloody creepy script which is a surprise, considering his work up until this was all Hallmark/Disney type stuff. I think he’s found his true calling… Director, Justin G. Dyck works his magic on the story to give us some truly creepy scenes which I won’t be forgetting anytime soon… I still feel icky when I floss now and the bendy demon scene was a genuinely tense experience. I am not pregnant, but even I clutched my imaginary unborn baby at this scene!

The winning formula for Anything for Jackson were its antagonists, bereaved grandparents Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry Walsh (Julian Richings). The performances by Sheila and Julian were perfect as the dedicated grandparents and supportive spouses who would do anything to make each other happy. They just want their grandson back, who wouldn’t, but they are so out of their depth meddling in satanic rites and rituals in a bumbling, innocent way, you can’t help but empathize with them. They’ve obviously never broken the law before, let alone kidnap a woman and summon a demon, but you want them to complete what is, when you really think about it, a pretty bloody evil task! The fact they need to read from self-written cue cards when introducing themselves to the kidnapee, clean her and try not to harm her in any way, further endears these characters to you. It’s incredibly difficult for any writer to make the audience side with the antagonist more than the protagonist, especially Satanists, but Keith pulled it off with skill.

Fortunately, the story does amp up the stakes with more diabolical antagonists resulting in an almost Stockholm Syndrome effect for Audrey/Henry and their prisoner, Shannon (Konstantina Mantelos). Nothing brings people together than a soul-thirsty demon…

The humor was nicely dark and dry. It’s not belly-laugh inducing, it wasn’t its intention, but you are frequently smirking at the perfectly punctuated quips. It never deters from the actual horror occurring and never trips into the realm of slapstick or absurdity. From a satanic cult meeting with a side table of morning tea, to Audrey knitting for her prisoner, it was great.

My only real gripe is that I did feel things got a little slow and repetitive during the second half of act 2, as it takes the haunted house vibe it introduces at the beginning of this act (and gives us plenty of creepy scares) and starts to go into Blumhouse ad nauseam territory, but the story does pick up again in the final act once a new antagonist is introduced and the stakes a raised.

Anything for Jackson was a thoroughly enjoyable tale. It’s a low-key affair with some genuinely intense scenes of terror punctuated with dark humor and endearing characters. I implore all to watch this, well, maybe not if you’re pregnant…

4.5 out of 5 ghost kids

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