Anything for Jackson (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): A Satanist couple in trouble

“Anything for Jackson” is a little horror film which turns out to be more morbid, humorous, and bizarre than expected. While unfolding its devious plot mainly via the viewpoint of an insidious old couple who seems be ready for doing anything for their desperate personal cause, the movie gradually wields its twisted sense of black humor along with a number of disturbing moments of horror, and we gladly go along with that even while observing this evil couple’s plight from the distance.

When the movie opens with the introduction of its two main characters, everything seems to be fine and normal on the surface as this old couple is beginning another day at their house. As Audrey (Sheila McCarthy) is doing some work in the kitchen, her doctor husband Henry (Julian Richings) enters, and we see them cordially talk a bit with each other before he hurriedly goes outside for some important matter.

It soon turns out that Henry and Audrey are preparing to kidnap a young pregnant woman named Becker (Konstantina Mantelos), who, as revealed to us later via a brief flashback scene, is one of the pregnant patients in the woman’s clinic belonging to Henry. Once Henry manages to kidnap and then take Becker into his house, Audrey instantly assists him, and Becker soon finds herself handcuffed to a bed in a room on the top floor of the house. She naturally screams for help once she discerns what has just happened to her, but, as Audrey and Henry have already checked, there is no one outside to hear her scream at any chance.

As trying to comfort their captive as much as they can, Audrey and Henry gradually reveal their deranged plan which is somewhere between “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) and the reversal version of “The Exorcist” (1973). Some time ago, they lost not only their daughter but also her little son, and, while still coping with the resulting pain and grief, they are determined to get back their dear grandson by any means necessary. As a matter of fact, they are the members of a local Satanist group, and they recently obtained an ancient Satanist book, which will probably help them bring back their dead grandson’s soul and then take him into Becker’s unborn child.

Of course, they must summon a certain powerful demon who will surely demand some effort and sacrifice, and the movie has some twisted fun with their rather clumsy preparation process. While everything seems to be going smoothly of them, they are still nervous and unsure about whether they accomplish the task as well as they hope, and we cannot help but amused from time to time even while chilled by their fiendish plan.

Not so surprisingly, the situation later becomes quite more complicated than they expected. When a detective visits his woman’s clinic as expected, Henry tries to look as innocent as possible, but that only makes the detective suspect him more than before. There is also a local handyman who is rather too eager to do what he is hired to do, and we later get a little amusing moment when this dude may discover Audrey and Henry’s unspeakable secret at any moment.

Furthermore, Audrey and Henry come to have a more serious trouble inside their house, which gradually looks more like your average haunted house as days go by. As they are more disturbed, Audrey and Henry eventually come to consult one of their fellow Satanists who is relatively more knowledgeable in comparison, and he agrees to take care of their problem, though he will not just do that for free.

While the mood becomes darker and more insidious, the movie keeps its attitude straight along with its main characters. Although they are not exactly pleasant people, we come to understand Audrey and Henry to some degree, and there is a little sobering scene where Aubrey phlegmatically explains why they chose to bring back their grandson instead of his mother. In case of Becker, she is presented as someone who is not merely a captive at all, and we come to root for her more as she struggles to search for any possible way out.

During the last act, the movie switches onto a full-throttle horror mode in its modest but effective way, and director/co-writer/co-producer Justin G. Dyck, who wrote the screenplay with his co-producer Keith Cooper, skillfully doles out the obligatory moments of shock and awe while never losing any sense of fun. Although the ending is a bit too ambiguous in my humble opinion, I appreciate it nonetheless because it is thankfully free of a certain familiar horror cliché, and I am more amused as reflecting more on many twisted moments in the film.

The movie depends a lot on the talent and presence of its two lead performers, and Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings play their characters as straight as possible while dexterously balancing their acting between comedy and horror. As another crucial character in the story, Konstantina Mantelos holds her own small space well between McCarthy and Richings, and Josh Cruddas is also effective in his substantial supporting role while bringing some extra humor and creepiness to the movie.

On the whole, “Anything for Jackson” did a good job of bringing some fresh air to its genre territory, and I enjoyed its sly mix of horror and comedy. In short, it is one of better horror flicks I have seen during last several months, and it is definitely recommendable if you are ready for something hilarious as well as macabre.

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