Anything For Jackson (2020)

JANUARY 1, 2021


For the past nearly fifty (!) years, every possession movie made has been compared (not always fairly) to The Exorcist, so it's kind of insane to think that it took this long* for someone to get around that very tall hurdle and simply invert the premise. Anything For Jackson has the girl tied to a bed, the freaky visuals, the rituals... but the plot is completely different, which means that if Friedkin/Blatty's masterpiece crosses your mind, it'll likely be of the "Huh, I guess you CAN make something that doesn't feel like it owes a debt to it."

The title refers to a little boy who died in a car accident, whose grieving grandparents (Julian Richings and Sheila McCarthy) want him back so badly that they dabble in the dark arts and find a spell that can bring him back by injecting his soul/ghost into a child that is about to be born. Of course for that they need a pregnant woman, which they find through Richings' job as a general practitioner, and arrange to have the woman come to their house for an appointment so they can kidnap her and carry out the ritual in the days leading up to the baby's birth. Naturally, she isn't exactly on board with this idea (despite being unsure if she wanted the child in the first place), so it unfolds a bit like your standard survival thriller, with the "villains" having to ward off snooping neighbors and the like, but with the fun wrinkle that the grandparents are a. a bit clueless about what they're doing and b. have no intentions of harming her.

On point A, I want to stress it's not a dark comedy. There are some bits of humor here and there, but it's usually subtle and dry - most of what there is stems from the couple's petty grievances with each other, the kind that can only be born out of a longtime relationship. Richings and McCarthy have terrific chemistry, and while it's not much new for McCarthy (Sam Coleman from WNTW News!) to play normal people, it's a true delight to see Richings not only taking on a rare lead role, but playing a relatively normal person instead of the usual creepy weirdos he has played in genre films for the past few decades. Sure, he's a guy that kidnaps a woman and perform a satanic ritual, but he's also a kindly doctor who will point out an askew hem on his wife's dress. And, while they're going about it in a very weird way, he's not only just a grandfather who wants to play with his grandson again, but he's also doing it all for his wife's sake, knowing her grief is even more unbearable than his own. It's not every day you can describe a Julian Richings character in a horror movie as "sweet", is what I'm saying.

As for the mom, Shannon (Konstantina Mantelos), she thankfully doesn't spend too much time on escape attempts we know won't work, and ultimately more or less realizes they mean well and aren't "bad people" in the traditional sense. In fact beyond knocking her over the head so they can get her inside and up into the room that she is confined to, they don't commit any violence at all in the film. But there's still a body count, because when they perform the first part of the ritual they accidentally let in other spirits, ones that aren't as benevolent as their grandson. These ghosts take to messing with the couple's heads, giving them horrifying visions (including one that might reduce the sales of dental floss among viewers) and possessing others. I was just starting to roll my eyes at the dedication of their usual snowplowing guy who kept coming back to clean up their driveway (despite Richings telling him not to, in fear he'd see something he shouldn't) when the plotline wrapped itself up in fantastically gruesome fashion.

There's also a bit of humor to be found in the performance of Josh Cruddas as Ian, an occult expert (and resident of his mother's basement) who assists the couple on occasion. It's an interesting character, as he doesn't really care much about why they're doing what they're doing, but is curious if it'll work, so he walks this line between being annoyed at their naivety but also mild amusement about what they manage to do right. His character proves to be more interesting than you'd initially suspect, and is another thing to help illustrate the movie's overall point that you can do a possession film without invoking Regan McNeill.

And it arrives at a perfect time, as my Shudder subscription will be due for renewal soon and with disrupted income due to covid, I am forever looking for ways to tighten the belt. Since the app on Xbox One is so buggy and it's somehow STILL not available on Playstation I don't use Shudder as often as you'd expect given my "I will watch any legitimate horror movie ever made at least once" approach to life. In addition to my son's aversion to such fare, my wife works from home doing therapy via Zoom and the like, so I can't have people screaming and such in the background even during the day when he's at daycare, so I can't watch anything until he's asleep (10pm, the little shit!). By then I myself am about to pass out, so I often watch movies broken up - it took three sittings to get through this, in fact. So when you factor that along with the other, more family-necessary services that ARE easy to watch (i.e. Netflix and Hulu), it feels like a bit of a waste to keep a Shudder sub going when I only use it maybe once a month*. BUT, things like this are exclusive, and I'm super glad I watched it, so the price seems right as of this time. If you haven't subscribed yet, AND you - unlike me - have the ability to use it more than 30 half asleep minutes a day, I highly recommend jumping on board. Their library continues to expand with both the older stuff you'd be excited to have at your disposal, and new films like this that would be instantly buried and forgotten on all-purpose services.

What say you?

*Luckily for them I watched this *after* the Castle Freak remake, another exclusive (at least for now) that... well, it wasn't terrible, but it was unnecessary and poorly cast (the girl playing blind was laughably bad at it), so it certainly wouldn't inspire a renewal to keep content like it coming my way.


Post a Comment

Movie & TV Show Preview Widget