Nightstream Review: Anything for Jackson (2020)

Directed by: Justin G. Dyck. Starring: Sheila McCarthy, Julian Richings, Konstantina Mantelos. Runtime: 1h 36 min. Released: This film had its U.S. Premiere on October 9, 2020 at Nightstream.

* Editor’s note:  I actually watched Anything for Jackson at Fantasia Film Festival in September for its World Premiere and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to watch it again.

It was such a great surprise then as a brilliant reverse exorcism film, and I really wanted to see how it holds up on second viewing. I didn’t read my first review of the film over so I don’t know how much I repeat, but this is written from the perspective of how it plays on second viewing.

If you want to read up about what I thought of the film on my first viewing last month, click here for my review out of the Fantasia Film Festival. *

Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry Walsh (Julian Richings) are the neighbours you’ll see on every block; they just happen to be Satanists. Tragedy befell their family when they lost their grandson Jackson. Now, they’ve found a way to bring him back through one of Henry’s patients, the pregnant Shannon Becker (Konstantina Mantelos), who they kidnap in order to get Jackson back.

I’m still so impressed by the premise of this film as a reverse exorcism – inviting the dead Jackson into Shannon’s womb – as it’s just such a great concept. I went into the film the first time knowing very little, and I’m happy to report it is so good watching it knowing exactly what you’re getting into.

Anything for Jackson
Julian Richings and Sheila McCarthy on the poster of Anything for Jackson. (Courtesy of Nightstream.)

I’m still impressed that this film is so scary while the dry comedy is so funny. There are truly creepy horror scenes here as it marries two horror sub-genres of exorcism and haunted house. I’ll never look at flossing the same, I’ll tell you that much about one of the film’s best sequences. The comedy itself is birthed by their politeness as Canadians and just through very smart dialogue, as well as the irony of still being polite despite kidnapping a woman. It’s almost funnier the second time, as there’s one big laugh that’s only funny if you know that they’re Satanists.

Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings are a delightful pair here, and Konstantina Mantelos is so strong as the poor Becker who unfortunately chose Henry Walsh as her doctor. The dramatic beats she shares with Audrey trying to beg for her life, and how the film depicts the hardship of grief and getting over the loss of a child, is quite moving and well-written by Keith Cooper. There’s one powerful line that really encapsulates that aspect of the film: “No one has more time than a grieving family. No one.”

Also, the way fellow Satanist Ian (Josh Cruddas) gets in on the fun is interesting, too. The way director Justin G. Dyck brings this all to life in either very funny ways or thrilling ways in the horror sequences, makes Anything for Jackson a treat. I don’t know if I’d label it as a traditional horror comedy because it truly doesn’t feel like the traditional horror comedy. I find horror comedies put an emphasis on the comedy and forget the scary; Anything for Jackson accomplishes the rare feat of delivering on both. Quite devilish of them, really, and I’m glad to report I liked this film even more the second time.

Score: 88/100

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