Anything for Jackson (2020)


Canada. 2020.


Director – Justin G. Dyck, Screenplay – Keith Cooper, Producers – Keith Cooper, Justin G. Dyck, Christopher Giroux & Bill Marks, Photography – Sasha Moric, Music – John McCarthy, Visual Effects Supervisor – Alex Freitas, Makeup Effects – Karlee Morse, Production Design – Daniel Markworth. Production Company – Vortex Media/Super Channel/Ontario Creates.


Julian Richings (Henry Walsh), Sheila McCarthy (Audrey Walsh), Konstantina Mantelos (Shannon Becker), Josh Cruddas (Ian), Yannick Bisson (Rory), Lanette Ware (Detective Bellows), Claire Cavalheiro (Talia), Scott Cavalheiro (Colin)


Elderly doctor Henry Walsh and his wife Audrey invite his pregnant patient Shannon Becker to their house only to imprisoner her, handcuffed her to a bed. They inform her that they are Satanists and are intending to perform a ceremony that will bring the soul of their late grandson Colin back to life in her unborn child. Problems are then caused by the investigating detective Bellows trying to trace Shannon’s whereabouts. At the same time, Henry and Audrey’s use of spells from an ancient occult text has inadvertently opened up a doorway and the house becomes filled with ghosts. As they prepare to conduct the ceremony and ask the help of fellow Satanist Ian, Henry and Audrey start to realise just how unprepared they are.

Most of the films that get reviewed by this site sit in a middle of the road. The results fall into a bell curve where there are some that are quite good, some terrible and most sit in about a two star average place. Sometimes however you get something that jolts you out of your placidity. There is the considerable pleasure of discovering for yourself someone with talent who is going places. It was that same sense of discovery one had in watching Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1985), Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste (1988) or Takashi Miike’s Audition (1999) for the first time. I am happy to say I received that same buzz with Justin G. Dyck and Anything for Jackson,

Anything for Jackson is a film that has your jaw on the floor from the outset. The very opening scene is a wide angle on the main living area of a house – an open kitchen area/dining room with a view looking at the front door – where elderly couple Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings seem to be going about ordinary life, discussing banal matters about hems on clothing. That is before the pregnant Konstantina Mantelos knocks at the door and they invite her in and then abruptly grab her and drag her into the elevator. In the very next scene, we have Konstantina cuffed to a bed where we first see Sheila McCarthy rehearsing notes that they have written to explain the situation and Konstantina learning that they are intending to incarnate the soul of their grandson in her child. The kicker of the scene comes as Konstantina asks about the boy in the room (Scott Cavalheiro) before Sheila gets overjoyed because what she is seeing is the dead grandson’s ghost meaning that she is the ordained host.

We have seen assorted depictions of Satanism on screen before (for a more detailed overview see Devil Worship Films). These are filled with the usual cliches of worshippers chanting in Latin around a pentagram while outfitted in black or red robes. Justin Dyck takes the time to deflate the cliches – Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings appears as less self-assured versions of Maurice Evans and Ruth Gordon in Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Their scenes are wittily undercut by their fussing around after Konstantina Mantelos as though she were a visiting relative, or of them struggling to get a smartphone and its apps working. There is a rather funny scene where they attend a Satanist meeting, which is held at the local community centre out the back of a library replete with snacks available for after the meeting.

Elderly Satanists Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings in Anything for Jackson (2020)
Elderly Satanists Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings

Both Julian Richings and Sheila McCarthy give fine performances – Richings in particular with his thin, oddly shaped face has a long history of weird and psycho roles but this is actually the most normal one has seen him in anything. The latter half of the film is largely stolen by Josh Cruddas who cuts a weird, alienated figure from the moment we see him with his unnaturally pale albinoid face and red hair.

After the opening scenes, Justin Dyck throws a series of nightmare scenes at us:- Julian Richings waking up to think Sheila is in the bathroom only for it to turn out to be a demonic entity that is tearing its teeth out as it flosses; Sheila McCarthy terrorised by a kid dressed as a Halloween ghost in a sheet with eye sockets knocking at the door and then entering the house; the unnerving figure with a plastic bag over its head that appears from under Konstantina’s bed and proceeds to unnaturally contort around the room and spider-walk up her imprisoned body. Often you feel in these scenes that Dyck is throwing in weird jumps to keep the show unexpected and interesting but it all eventually makes sense.

Dyck gets off two major jolts in mid-film [PLOT SPOILERS] like where neighbour Yannick Bisson is snowploughing the lawn and then calls out to them “You know he’s coming back to you” before he unexpectedly shoves his head into the snowplough; or when detective Lanette Ware bursts in to arrest Julian Richings for abduction and then abruptly turns and puts the gun in her mouth and blows her brains out. Why exactly they do so is not entirely clear – one presumes some side effect of the spells that Sheila McCarthy has been reciting to revive the dead. What is particularly unsettling is the later scenes where the ghost of Lanette Ware keeps walking into the bedroom and blowing her head off over and over.

It all culminates in a climactic scene where everything proceeds to go wrong – where Richings and McCarthy plan to conduct the ritual; where Konstantina starts to free herself; where they cannot be sure if Josh Cruddas knows what he is doing or is a murderer; where the salt circle is broken; and the ghost of Lanette Ware keeps entering the room and blowing her head off on repeat in the background. Everything twists around on itself in a series of most pleasing contortions that one could say they never saw coming.

Canadian director Justin G. Dyck had spent most of the 2010s directing a series of family entertainment tv movies – see sample titles such as A Puppy for Christmas (2016), Christmas Wedding Planner (2017), A Very Country Christmas (2017), Christmas With a Prince (2018), Baby in a Manger (2019), A Very Country Wedding (2019) and Ponysitters Club: The Big Sleepover (2020), among others, The film is also executive producer by Audrey Cummings, a rising horror director in her own right with films like Berkshire County (2014) and She Never Died (2019).

Trailer here

Actors: , , , , , , ,
Themes: , , , , , , ,