The Spooky Time Is Upon Us

Folks, I love Halloween.

I didn’t really get into horror until I was in high school, but ever since, I’ve been making up for lost time. Every October, I throw myself into as much horror as I can fit into a 31-day period. That means I watched several horror films over the weekend, and there’s one in particular I want to talk about: Anything For Jackson.

This movie a Shudder original, and it actually came out last year–it’s been one of those “on my to-watch list, haven’t gotten around to it” things for me, but I finally checked it out and… damn. I had high expectations based on what I’d heard, and it exceeded them.

The premise of Anything For Jackson is simple: an elderly couple has lost their grandson in a tragic accident, and they’ll do whatever it takes to bring him back… including joining a satanic cult.

To facilitate the resurrection, Henry Walsh (Julian Richings) and his wife Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) kidnap a pregnant woman named Shannon Becker (Konstantina Mantelos) and plan to perform a ritual that will put Jackson’s soul into the body of Shannon’s unborn child. The problem is, they aren’t exactly experts on the occult, and the ritual doesn’t go quite as planned.

It’s a simple but intriguing premise, and it adds a ton of depth to the film. It is, at times, almost humorous (Audrey’s nervous introduction to Shannon, for instance, in which she asks the captured woman not to scream as doing so would hurt the Walshes’ feelings), and yet–once the plot really gets going–it’s absolutely terrifying.

Despite its demonic trappings, the movie spends most of its runtime as a mashup of tense hostage thriller and horrifying ghost story. Jackson’s soul isn’t the only one drawn in by Henry and Audrey’s attempts at dark magic, and some of the other apparitions are gut-wrenchingly scary.

Good scares are important for any horror movie, and Anything For Jackson has them in abundance, but what makes the film truly notable is its well-drawn characters and their evolving relationships. We learn more and more about the central couple and their true motivations as the film goes on, and each reveal re-contextualizes what we’ve seen before. At the same time, both of them are interacting with their victim in very different ways. Everyone feels believable (well, as believable as the premise will allow) and their development over the course of the film is very organic.

All in all, it was definitely the star of my weekend horror romp, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good scare this season!

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