‘Anything for Jackson’ is an interesting mash-up of two seemingly incompatible horror subgenres, occult and trap/escape room. Its premise follows an affluent couple who joins a Satanic cult that holds its meetings in a community center and tries to bring back a deceased loved one. Now, it could have worked equally well for a spoof or even a satire. But the dark humor of the initial few scenes is gradually replaced with a perpetual sense of dread that festers under even the candid and lightest of sequences.
The writer-director duo, Justin G. Dyck and Keith Cooper, have made their names by making holiday telefilms like ‘Christmas Wedding Planner’ (2017) and ‘A Christmas Village’ (2018). ‘Anything for Jackson’ feels like their effort to break free of that mold. If that is indeed the case, then the film is a roaring success. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Anything for Jackson Plot Synopsis
The film gets to the meat of the story without much preamble. Grief has become part of the lives of Audrey and Henry Walsh (Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings) since the deaths of their daughter and grandson Jackson (Daxton William Lund) in a car accident. It has manifested in them joining the local Satanic group. They learn about an ancient, demonic book that can bring back the dead. Henry tracks it down in Jerusalem and purchases it in exchange for their retirement plan.
A gynecologist, Henry decides to use the unborn child of one of his patients, Shannon Becker (Konstantina Mantelos), a struggling young woman whose family is hundreds of miles away, as the vassal in which Jackson’s soul will be implanted. Audrey does several trial runs of the ritual on dead crows. As those are successful, they decide to go forward with their plan. They kidnap Shannon and keep her captive in a sound-proof bedroom.
The moment they conduct the ritual, paranormal incidents start happening around them. Evidently, when they invoked a particular demon to open the gates of purgatory so their grandson’s soul can pass, other twisted and tormented beings came out as well. Henry sees a woman who keeps flossing her terrifying teeth, one at a time. Audrey is haunted by a ghost wearing the costume that her daughter used to wear on Halloween when she was younger.
As for Shannon, she helplessly watches as a contortionist spirit with a plastic bag over his head climbs up on the bed to which she’s handcuffed before Audrey manages to get into the room. This curse seems to serve as a protection against anyone who comes close to discovering the secret of the Walsh family. An over-friendly snow shoveler puts his head into the snow blower, while the detective investigating Shannon’s disappearance shoots herself.
Anything for Jackson Ending
The dichotomy between how normal, pleasant, and kind the Walshes are and the increasing moral scarcity of their actions serves as the main driving force of the plot. They know what they are doing to Shannon and her unborn child is literally evil, and they never offer an ethical justification for it because they know there is none. This behavior doesn’t stem from indifference because clearly, they care deeply for the well-being of Shannon and the fetus.
Instead, it comes from a twisted form of resolve, which, in turn, originates from their all-encompassing grief. This is truer for Audrey than Henry. She was behind the wheel on the day of the accident. Her grandson was instantly killed. Her daughter, on the other hand, became a wheelchair user and later committed suicide. In Audrey’s case, her grief is mixed with a deep sense of guilt. She believes that by bringing back Jackson, she will be able to retcon the worst day of her life.
For Henry, it is much simpler. He is doing all this because of his love for Audrey. When Shannon asks how many people have to die so they can bring their grandson back, Henry responds by saying all of them, including Shannon and himself, and adding, “You can’t win a moral argument with me … I’ve made a deal with the devil.” While he is not a complete believer in their own justification of their actions, and as a result, is prone to make mistakes, he has no qualms about doing whatever necessary to ensure the ritual is completed and Jackson is reborn because that’s what Audrey wants.
The Completion of the Ritual
Realizing that they are dealing with forces that they don’t understand, the Walshes enlist the help of Ian (Josh Cruddas), a recluse and fellow member of the cult. He is perhaps the only person in the group, aside from the Walshes, who takes Satanism seriously and seems to have in-depth knowledge on the subject. After arriving at Henry and Audrey’s home, he quickly surmises that the ritual is only halfway done. They still have to make a sacrifice, preferably the life of the mother for the condemned.
For Ian, this is the moment his life has been leading to. He murders his mother and writes occult symbols on the walls before coming to Walshes’ home the following day to perform the ritual. Ironically, he is the one who breaks the salt line at the threshold of the room, after telling Henry and Audrey not to do precisely that, and lets the spirit that kills him inside. A perfect representative of the incel subculture, he was always a ticking timebomb. The moment he realizes that everything he believes in is true, he snaps.
During the ritual, when Shannon starts resisting, Ian stabs Audrey, mortally wounding her. As she is also a mother, she is as viable as a sacrifice as Shannon. Unbeknownst to the Walshes, he decides to use their ritual to summon the Devil. When Henry realizes it, it is too late. Audrey is dead, and the ritual is complete. As the contortionist spirit reappears and terrorizes Shannon, he does the only redeeming act he can do at that moment. He frees her. As she leaves the house, she sees every single nightmare fuel that has taken up residence there in the last few days.
Henry was holding Audrey when Ian completed the ritual and sprinkled his blood on both of them. With Audrey dead, the Devil rips open Henry from the inside and emerges. In the closing scenes, as she is driving away in the detective’s car, Shannon spots the Devil ahead of her, crossing the road. It stops, stares at her, before continuing on. The camera focuses on Shannon as she presses her hand on her belly. She is relieved that both she and her unborn baby have managed to survive this horrible ordeal.
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