Considering how long storytelling has been around, it’s quite tricky to find a wholly original tale at this point. However, one can still find a pretty novel idea for a premise if one looks hard enough. On the surface, that’s what the story for the new independent horror film Anything for Jackson appears to be — a unique genre mashup. One which, I would imagine, was pitched as “It’s like Misery (1990) meets Rosemary’s Baby (1968),” which seems like a fresh approach if you ask me. Anything for Jackson focuses on Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) and Henry Walsh (Julian Richings), a couple of geriatric Satanists who are mourning the loss of their titular grandson, Jackson (Daxton William Lund). In an act of desperation, the couple kidnaps a pregnant woman, Shannon Becker (Konstantina Mantelos), to put the spirit of their dead grandson into her soon to be born baby’s body.
Perhaps my expectations were a little too high for this demonic possession/kidnapping hybrid. Nevertheless, I feel first-time feature film screenwriter Keith Cooper (who plotted the story with the movie’s director Justin G. Dyck) runs out of gas pretty fast. See, horror movies with a dramatic core based on loss and mourning must earn that emotional center. To do so, we must get to know the characters or, at least, extensively see how the tragedy at the center of the story has affected their lives. (The Changeling (1980) is an excellent example of how to achieve such a narrative goal.) Alas, Anything for Jackson does not put in any effort when it comes to character development. Instead, the story simply expects that the audience will invest, or at the very least be interested in its trifecta of main characters.
Of course, this laziness on the page extends to the screen. A quality (or lack thereof) that I think is due to Anything For Jackson seemingly being overly-aware of not only itself, but the horror genre and its tropes as well. Yes, director Justin G. Dyck (whose previous efforts are all TV movies) is a competent filmmaker. He delivers a competent, yet incredibly lackadaisical and uninspired picture. As with its characters, the atmosphere and dread of this flick are not developed. On the contrary, Anything for Jackson merely attempts to fool you into thinking it has an atmosphere through what I call ominous cinematography. You know, the visual style was popularized by Insidious (2010), along with a powdering of snow.
I never want to completely drag a movie, though, and that goes for Anything for Jackson as well. Sure, this film is so by-the-numbers it bored me to the point of almost dozing off several times, but it’s worth noting that not everyone who worked on this picture is completely sleepwalking through it. The film’s small cast put as much as they can muster into their performances despite not having much to work with. Alas, this cast could not save Anything for Jackson from being anything but a dull and perfunctory exercise in modern horror.
Anything for Jackson is available to stream exclusively on Shudder