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Review: Anything For Jackson – “A delicious and devilish descent into darkness”

Streaming exclusively on Shudder from the 3rd of December, Anything For Jackson is written by Keith Cooper (A Very Country Christmas: Homecoming), directed by Justin G. Dyck (Ponysitters Club: The Big Sleepover) and stars Sheila McCarthy (Die Hard 2), Julian Richings (Urban Legend), Konstantina Mantelos (A Christmas Crush) and Josh Cruddas (Polar).

Audrey (McCarthy) and Henry Walsh (Richings) are an older couple who are still devastated by the loss of their daughter and their grandson, Jackson, in a car crash. Willing to do absolutely anything to bring him back, they turn to Satan: following a ritual from an ancient text and kidnapping a pregnant woman, Becker (Mantelos), so that they can use her unborn child as a vessel for Jackson’s resurrection.

The kidnapping and invocation go swimmingly initially, but soon they appear to be getting more than they bargained for. The Walsh’s begin seeing grisly demonic visions, a murder of crows takes up permanent residence in their garden and any interlopers on their property meet a grisly end. In a desperate attempt to regain control, Audrey and Henry turn to a friend from their local devil-worshipping circle, Ian (Cruddas), not knowing that he has his own hidden agenda.

Maybe it’s all the Christmas movies for TV that Cooper and Dyck have made along with a desire to strike out on their own and do something darker, but Anything For Jackson feels very fresh. It’s a cracking example of the horror genre and has a script, attitude and spirit that make it stand out. The Walsh’s approach to their task and their matter of fact use of the dark arts to achieve it feels welcome and different and almost like a nod to genre fans – acknowledging their existing familiarity with tropes and getting to the good stuff.

They may all be devil worshippers but the entire cast is all extremely likeable and make every setback and drop of blood spilled all the more powerful. McCarthy and Richings are brilliant and you honestly just want them to get what they want, siding with them when Becker tries to escape or someone is compelled to top themself in their house and the poor pair now have to try and dispose of a body on top of everything else.

Mantelos’s Becker spends most of her time tied to the bed but has loads of mind games and character arc in her meaning she still has plenty of agency even if she does not have any freedom. The introduction into the circle of Cruddas’ Ian for the final act is great too. He is at first a joke of a character and seems like a wannabe bad boy practising devil worship from his parents’ basement, but Cruddas gives him an unsettling edgy wild card flavour making his presence feel dangerous and threatening, adding another dynamic to the film’s finale.

Anything For Jackson is full of brilliant moments that will shock you but also leave a smile on the face of horror fans who will be happy to see some great genre moments set up and then carried out extremely satisfyingly. Cooper’s directing keeps a keen eye on the film’s pacing, letting it build and spiral out of control as the amount of paranormal and hellish events mount inexorably alongside a creeping score from John McCarthy (Love and Other Remains).

The very ending is a bit lacklustre, feeling not quite big enough in either scale or narrative resolution, but Anything For Jackson is a delicious and devilish descent into darkness with twists, turns, gruesome gore and great performances.

Anything for Jackson will be available to view exclusively on Shudder from the 3rd of December.

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