Ummm…Canadian directors are making some of the coolest horror movies lately. If you don't believe us, just check out last year's Blood Quantum, a fun-yet-terrifying zombie thriller wherein Indigenous people face hordes of white undead.
This year's stellar Canadian horror entry, Anything for Jackson comes to us on the Shudder streaming service from director Justin G. Dyck, who has mainly worked in television movies so far, and it's a glorious updating of the possession trope mixed with a sort of deconstruction of privilege, suburbia and family.
We join couple Henry and Audrey Walsh (Julian Richings and Sheila McCarthy) in the aftermath of their grandson Jackson's death. It was a car accident, and the couple never got over it. What to do in a situation like that? Make use of a thousand-year-old book of Satanist spells, of course. Audrey manages to claim dominion over life and death, and the couple hatches a plan to kidnap (and, weirdly, care for) a young pregnant woman (Konstantina Mantelos) in the hopes of transferring Jackson's soul into that of her soon-to-be-born child.
Still with us? Good. Because it shouldn't be so fun to observe what most film writers are calling a reverse exorcism, but it is. McCarthy in particular sings in the role of Audrey. She exudes a motherly calmness and kindness that feels all the more horrifying given her mission, and Riching's counterpoint role as her husband feels natural but bizarre. From the start, the pair's adorable old folks thing feels like an act, but winds up being one of the more unsettling aspects of Dyck's opus.
Anything for Jackson ultimately proves a worthy addition to new school horror alongside recent highlights such as It Follows and The Cured, though while those films seemed to take their sweet time trying to creep us out, Dyck and company hit us where we live by making us question what grief might lead to, and whether our own families are as put-together as we hope. You haven't seen anything like this, but you need to.
+Fresh idea; McCarthy and Richings are amazing
-Sometimes feels silly when we're looking for scares
Anything for Jackson
Directed by Dyck
With McCarthy, Richings and Mantelos
Shudder, NR, 97 min.