What would you do to bring someone back from the dead? It’s a question at the heart of many horror movies and the characters often go a step too far to accomplish this goal. With Anything for Jackson, grandparents Audrey and Henry Walsh (Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings) go too far in the first five minutes and just dig a deeper hole as the film goes on. Their grandson is dead; the result of a terrible accident, and desperate to bring him back to life, they kidnap a pregnant woman named Shannon (Konstantina Mantelos).
[Slight spoiler Warning]
For the first few minutes, the plot goes through the necessary. Shannon tries to escape, screams, and Henry checks from outside to make sure her cries won’t be heard by neighbors. It’s chilling to say the least. But then they explain to her that their grandson Jackson can be brought back as a spirit and transferred into Shannon’s unborn child. They begin a series of rituals while simultaneously heading off police, employees at Henry’s office, and a nosy yard maintenance man. It’s a good balancing act as the Walsh’s struggle to appear normal.
So why this movie? For starters, the spooks are well-executed with at least one scene making me dread my visit to the dentist. One unfriendly spirit appears with a sheet over his head and frankly, it felt like the most effective use of cloth since the first Halloween. The kidnapped and the kidnappers all struggle to keep their sanity as the spirits appear, not just for the traditional Boo! Moments, but to stake their claim on the people and the house they inhabit. They aren’t afraid of playing hard-ball and the Walsh’s aren’t just contending with an evil presence but struggling with their own misdeeds. There are even moments where Shannon is able to sympathize with them. They don’t get a free pass, but their pain is palatable.
And that’s one way this film truly shines. The stereotypes of the creepy old couple are there in plain view, but we’re given reasons for why they exist. McCarthy and Richings don’t ham it up, but stick true to the moments as they come in their rickety old house, that is both unique and plausible. Even when a cult is introduced, it doesn’t seem to stretch too far, but rather shows their desperation and susceptibility.
Before this film, director Justin G. Dyck and writer Keith Cooper worked on romantic Christmas films. Coming into horror, they keep the snow-covered landscape and otherwise appear to do remarkably well in a new genre. If I were them, I’d take this cast and make a darker version of A Christmas Carol. Just a thought. Whatever they decide to do next, I’m anxious to see.
Watch Anything for Jackson on Shudder.
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