Fear your Elders!
Anything But Jackson is an offbeat horror film from director Justin G Dyck and screenwriter Keith Cooper, a duo that have collaborated on a long list of made-for-tv, holiday themed movies such as Christmas Wedding Planner and Operation Christmas List. Their latest offering couldn't be further removed.
Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings play bereaved sweet elderly couple, Audrey and Henry Walsh, who just happen to be Satanists. They kidnap pregnant Shannon Becker (Konstantina Mantelos) in order to perform a satanic ritual on her. Using an ancient spell-book they plan to put their dead grandson's spirit into Shannon's unborn child, but unfortunately for all involved, they end up summoning much more than they bargained for.
I applaud the story centering around two elderly protagonists, something we've seen a lot more recently, and even more interestingly, they're the antagonists in Shannon's story; but the focal point of the lens is firmly fixed on the Walsh's story.
Blending elements of classic horror movies, whilst maintaining its own plot, the bleak mixture of horror, drama and wickedly dark humour worked well for me, mainly due to the great acting. We're thrown into the meat of the story pretty quickly with the kidnapping, and setting the stakes with a few flashbacks. But, as we can all assume, asking Satan for help never goes according to plan!
The demons and ghosts at the centre of the film become increasingly disturbing and my personal highlights were the very effective contortionist ghost with a plastic bag tied over his head and the mad woman who keeps flossing the teeth, one by one, right out of her mouth.
Unfortunately I felt the other ghosts and jump-scares felt very flat, and the film began to nose dive a little for me. The first two acts are very strong, but I do feel like there was some uneven pacing towards the end of the film when everything starts going haywire. The 3rd act switches up the goofy and creepy tone with a little bit of batshit crazy; reminiscent of House Of The Devil meets Insidious, but unfortunately not as well constructed as either. The ending felt like a cliché of frights being thrown at the audience, but without effective editing or score. Oddly enough the ghosts were more realistic and visually pleasing than some of the ghosts from Insidious' further, but their presentation on screen flatlined.
Overall this is a pretty good find on Shudder, from a duo that have spent most of their career on kids movies and romantic Christmas stories. Due to that fact, as a horror, Anything For Jackson can be pretty rough around the edges but it holds together largely because of the committed performances of the cast. It's goofy, it's creepy, unsettling but also really quite charming and although the last act doesn't quite hit the mark I did have a devilishly good time watching it.
Anything For Jackson is OUT NOW on Shudder.
A review by Craig Fisher (FishboiFilms82)