(NIGHTSTREAM 2020) FILM REVIEW: In ANYTHING FOR JACKSON, beware hitchhiking ghosts in this darkly humorous family exorcism drama.


Director Justin G. Dyck scares up a unique premise in this genre entry showing what lengths a privileged family will go to make their desires come true.

Exorcism horror tends to be one of my least favorite modern horror subgenres. It’s a tried-and-true favorite that’s easy to execute and as such, it almost never says anything new. However, ANYTHING BUT JACKSON, playing at the Nightstream Film Festival on October 9th, bucks that trend by being a really fresh twist on the genre invoking the idea of a haunted house with that of a reverse-exorcism and dousing the whole affair with sprinkles of dark humor.

Julian Richings (Death from Supernatural and Sheila McCarthy play The Walshes, a well-to-do and kindly elderly couple who lost their grandson Jackson in a car crash and are desperate to get him back. Desperate, but well-off and connected, the Walshes have meticulously planned a reverse-exorcism, opening a portal to the other side an providing a host for their grandchild to possess, to bring their grandson back using a Satanic tome they tracked down. The only thing they’re missing is an expectant mother to use her unborn child as a host for Jackson’s spirit. The Walshes find such a host in Becker (Konstantina Mantelos). The couple brings her to a soundproof room in their home to enact the ritual, but not before reading her an explanatory note they have prepared. Becker can see Jackson’s ghost in their home and the couple takes it as a positive sign. However, once they’ve completed their ritual, they’re not sure if it has taken. Even more worrisome, their home is now filled with terrifying spirits, all looking for hosts to stay in this realm. The Walshes have opened a portal, but the gates are open and ghosts have hitchhiked to this haunted mansion looking to themselves a happy haunt with a fresh new host.

Dyck’s film reminds one of Ti West’s House of The Devil in its basic story of a patrician family’s well-thought-out plan to summon a spirit through pregnancy ala Rosemary’s Baby. The dark humor used throughout the film as the Walshes’ struggle to figure out whether their ritual worked and the effect of its unintended consequences on the couple really make the film stand out. Richings and McCarthy get a lot of mileage from their gravitas; whether it is employing it to comical effect when faced by a dental floss sporting ghoul as Richings does, or recounting the death of her daughter to her hostage as Mccarthy does. The couple lends a sense of legitimacy to the proceedings that really helps ground the proceedings of the film. Likewise, the film’s production value and character design are excellent – in particular, a white-sheeted ghost trick or treater who is one of the most clever scares I’ve seen in years. Mantelos as Becker, also makes an excellent protagonist, as she desperately tries to escape from this couple using only her wits and then has to deal with a houseful of ghosts to boot.

But Dyck’s film also tackles privilege in the persona of the Walshes. The couple wants their grandchild back and will do whatever they can to make it happen; whether it is laying out cash to would-be Satanists or kidnapping an expectant mother to meet their needs. It’s a clever indictment of the upper class, especially given the current state of the world; as long as their needs are met, it doesn’t matter the hand dealt other people and they view themselves as the victim for being put out for even having to invoke supernatural forces to make this happen. It’s a clever subtext that doesn’t go unseen; the best villains are the ones who think they aren’t really doing anything wrong.

Overall, ANYTHING FOR JACKSON is a very clever inversion of the exorcism genre. One with clever writing, special effects, and most importantly, great acting. It has a dark humor about it, which draws you in, and is one of the best horror films I’ve seen this year. Definitely worth checking out.

4 out of 5 Stars
– a great inversion on a tired trope that keeps you interested from start to finish.