How far would you go to see your most cherished loved one again? This is the question of the moment in the unsettling supernatural horror film Anything For Jackson directed by Justin G. Dyck, and written by Keith Cooper. A quick glance at the careers of either of these two creative figures might cause concern for horror fans (made-for-TV Christmas movies by the handful!), but the end result displays an effort from a team who loves the horror genre and wants to innovate it. Films about exorcisms are a pretty common sight, but the idea of putting a spirit into a person is the type of premise that perks you up a bit. Grieving elderly couple Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Dr. Henry Walsh (Julian Richings) have not been the same since they lost their grandson Jackson in a car accident. Their outwardly sweet appearance is shattered almost immediately as the sight of a kidnapped pregnant lady being forced into their house fills the screen. This woman is Shannon Becker (Konstantina Mantelos), a patient of Henry’s who is about to make a great vessel for the spirit of their grandson.
Horror films have numerous different ways they can go so terribly wrong, but one of the not-so-secret weapons of Anything For Jackson are the incredible performances from McCarthy and Richings. Although they are facilitating this horrible act, the fact that they are carrying it out in service of love makes all the difference in the world from an empathy standpoint. You almost get a chill going up your spine as they so matter-of-factly reveal their intentions to the terrified Shannon. This is a couple who has been consumed by grief for the longest time, and they have planned every minute detail in the quest to get Jackson’s spirit into this unborn child. Although history has taught us that the best laid plans mean nothing when you start messing with the spirit world. These amateur Satanists do not even realize how in over their heads they are when they perform an invocation, as the door to purgatory is not one that can be easily managed once open.
This film excels at conjuring a very unsettling atmosphere in which the raw nature of the grief and the terror from the threatening specters mesh in a really satisfying way. While Shannon is experiencing her own form of hell as a prisoner chained to a bed, her captors are not having the easiest go at it as they feature threats of this earth and beyond. Henry gets a bit more flustered under pressure than his determined wife, which raises the suspicion of Detective Bellows (Lanette Ware) during a routine questioning about the disappearance. Meanwhile Audrey is holding down the fort in a house filled with restless spirits brought to life through mostly practical effects supplemented with some computer work. From a flossing lady that will make your gums tingle just looking at the screen to a suffocating, contorted man crawling out from under the bed, there is plenty of nightmare fuel to go around here.
These spirits will get your heart racing, but some of the most effective moments are based within our earthly realm. The dynamic between our main couple, especially Audrey, and the captive Shannon is one of constant evolution in which you become deeply invested. While initially steely and detached from Shannon, fear and doubt begin to come into play the more they see of the spirit world and communicate with the mom-to-be. Horror grounded in human trauma is almost always effective, this is why Hereditary is one of the greatest horror films of the 2010s, so it does feel slightly unsatisfying when the film begins to expand its scope beyond them near the conclusion. With an understanding that they may not have the firm hold on their scenario as they thought they did, the two bring in their Satanist pal Ian (Josh Cruddas) to help course correct. The finale is thrilling onslaught of terrifying imagery that will please the hardcore horror sect, but the more personal story feels a bit lost in the end.
Even with some minor qualms with the last bit of the narrative, Anything For Jackson is one knockout example of modern horror done right. With ties to the personal, the horrific situations and imagery are that much more visceral for the audience. Justin G. Dyck and Keith Cooper have collaborated to make something that feels fresh and vital within the horror genre. Their decision to put Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings at the forefront of their story was the key to making this as special as it is. Horror fans who want a steady stream of earned scares from mostly practical effects should make viewing this feature a priority.
The film debuts on Blu-Ray with a 1080p presentation in its original aspect ratio that mostly captures the film well. The movie itself has a very muted color palette that was never going to make this a disc you show off, but there is a great amount of detail and clarity. The splashes of blood that pop up, especially against the white snow, provide some impressive moments that leap off the screen. There is slight loss of detail in fast panning shots, but it is not pervasive throughout. For a movie that relies on darkness to build tension, it is important to have deep black levels, which this thankfully does. Objects hold up pretty well in the shadows and retain their depth. There is no damage or digital noise detectable in this transfer. There are not very many moments that are going to jump off the screen, but this is a solid video presentation overall.
Anything For Jackson comes to Blu-Ray with a commendable DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. The movie is quiet for large portions of the story, but the environmental sounds provide a very immersive atmosphere for the story. The low end of the track is especially active during moments involving the spirit world with a bit of wall shaking happening. The dialogue and sound effects are appropriately balanced with the creepy score where nothing gets lost in the track. Surround channels get some nice activity during the nature scenes and with the creaky house during any lead up to a terrifying reveal. This track is quite powerful, and will be appreciated by horror fans who pick up this disc.
There are no special features included on this Blu-Ray.
Anything For Jackson is one of the big surprises to come out of the horror genre in the past year. Not only does it offer a very heartbreaking story of grief, it is simply scary as hell. The performances from our two older actors go a long way to making this story work as well as it does. The film gets slightly messy as it reaches the end, but it remains an engrossing time throughout. RLJE Films has released a Blu-Ray that sports a terrific A/V presentation that should surpass its streaming options. Horror fans should definitely take note of this one. Recommended
Anything For Jackson will be available to purchase on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on June 15, 2021.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: RLJE Films has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.