“Believe me when I say, we’ve thought of everything. No one has more time than a grieving family. No one.”
Grief provides a solid premise in a horror story. It is a universal emotion that we’ve all felt at one point or another, and it’s especially prevalent this year. Grief is the emotion that sets the tone in the new Shudder Original film, Anything for Jackson.
Possession horror has been stretched in different directions over the years. While there have been some great films in the sub-genre, many are still attempts at recreating the shock and terror provided by The Exorcist. It’s been a while since a possession film has moved in a new and creative direction. Anything for Jackson offers a unique take on the topic, with a fresh storyline and lasting impact on the audience.
Related: Why Possession Films Have to Try Harder to be Different
The beginning scene introduces a seemingly normal couple in an idyllic home setting. The accompanying music gives off an immediately creepy vibe. This sets the mood and alerts the viewer that things may not be as they seem. The action begins rather quickly, which draws the viewer in. We learn that Audrey and Henry Walsh are hell-bent on bringing their grandson back, using a plot they’ve worked on for months.
The couple kidnap a pregnant woman and almost immediately begin a drawn-out ritual of reverse exorcism. This is done in the hope of bringing their dead grandson’s spirit back within the unborn child. At this point, the film alternates between present day and flashbacks to events during the months prior. This style of storytelling works well as it gives the viewer familiarity with the characters and understanding of their motivations. It leads to more empathy from the audience, and perhaps different judgment than what was originally cast upon the characters.
As the story unfolds, the viewer learns of the couple’s loss and their beginnings in the practice of Satanism. While it initially seems that Doctor Walsh and his wife have a hold on what they’re doing, it turns out that they are in over their heads. They soon realize that they may have invited more than just one spirit into their home, and eventually seek help from a more experienced practicing Satanist.
To prevent risk of major spoilers, we should move toward an overall discussion of the film’s strong points. Anything for Jackson is the kind of film that makes the audience think twice about who might be living next door. It reminds us that it’s often the unassuming couple that harbor the darkest secrets or ill intentions.
This film carries the type of creeping horror that gets under your skin and lingers in your memory long after it’s over. Possession horror seems to be strongest when it offers a balance of quiet, unsettling moments sprinkled with a shocking scene or two.
There are moments that reflect the influence of great horror films of the past focusing on grief, loss, and the spirit world (Pet Sematary, Poltergeist, and The Exorcist come to mind)—but nothing that is an outright replica of the characters or storyline. Horror buffs are sure to enjoy both the subtle and more intense moments of terror present in the film while appreciating its originality.
See Also: Looking Back On Pet Sematary After Nearly 30 Years
Anything for Jackson is a welcome addition to possession horror and the genre overall. It’s a film with strong acting and atmosphere brought on by the setting and score. The addition of more scenes showing Jackson and his grandparents prior to death would’ve added more understanding and empathy from the audience. However, the film still stands on its own without this knowledge.
The insight that viewers are given is enough to create investment in the characters and in seeing the story through. This one is sure to leave a lasting impression on many viewers, especially those who’ve experienced profound grief and its impact.
WICKED RATING: 8/10
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