Monday, July 26, 2021

Satanism for Seniors


It's no secret that I love a good genre film with a mixed generational or just older cast. Give me some Late Phases and The Taking of Deborah Logans and I'm instantly intrigued. Sure, sometimes I crave watching hot young people in bikinis and swim trunks get eaten by alien sand in movies such as, you know, The Sand, but my uneducated estimate would wager that something like 90% of horror films are about hot young people who look good in bikinis and swim trunks.

Boy is it exciting when you land on a new film that decides to focus on an age group so often ignored by the entertainment industry...especially when it's really damn good.

Quick Plot: Henry is a doctor nearing retirement age living in a uniquely designed, fairly secluded multi-storied home with his wife Audrey. The couple seems unremarkably white collar normal until their morning routine takes a turn: breakfast ends early as Henry drags a heavily pregnant young woman inside, tying her to a bed in their carefully soundproofed attic.

Henry and Audrey have no desire to hurt young Becker, you see: they just need her body to do a satanic ritual that will transfer the soul of their late grandchild into the baby she's days away from delivering.

Typical grandparent stuff. 

I was intrigued going into Anything for Jackson because aside from the fresh character angle, this is a film directed by a filmmaker I know well. This isn't shocking, since in just 7 years, Justin G. Dyck has over 30 directing credits to his name...most of which are made-for-Hallmark-adjacent-channels Christmas romances.

As some of you know, I do an annual podcasting marathon on what I've dubbed Cozy Cardigan Christmas movies.Over the years, I've become fairly fascinated by just how formulaic they are, and how some filmmakers are able to overcome some of the limitations to produce actual good work. I don't know too much about Dyck's career plans, but from what I can see, he's spent the last few years working fast, probably learning a good deal of the craft and how to film on the cheap in Canada.

And honestly,  his recent entry, A Puppy for Christmas, is surprisingly delightful.

Screenwriter Keith Cooper has a similar career background, with a robust resume dripping with the kind of cheese I'd drunkenly melt over any late night movie club

Please don't let your (likely) dismissal of the holiday genre influence your decision to watch Anything for Jackson, because by golly, it's quite good. Veteran character actors Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings (whose face you surely remember being cubed in Cube) are so incredibly sympathetic as grandparents in way over their head, and Cooper's screenplay and Dyck's direction lean into their age with humor without cracking easy jokes. These are genuine, loving people willing to do some very dark things, and their own clumsiness at doing so makes the story something truly heartbreaking and unique. It might even call to mind another wonderful recent horror film about lost children, the grand A Dark Song. That's a very good thing.

Also, it's scary! From an overly aggressive teeth flossing apparition to a sheet-clad trick-or-treating ghost loaded with trauma, Dyck's monsters feel truly fresh in a genre that so often goes for trends.

High Points
Everything? This movie is grand.

Low Points
There is a bit of a gloomy quality to some of the lighting, which could almost be justified by the wintery Canadian setting, but also, you know, feels a bit muddy

Lessons Learned
No one has more time than a grieving family

If you can't say it, you shouldn't be doing it

Public libraries make suitable settings for satanic rituals

Anything For Jackson is the kind of movie that makes you justify that small monthly Shudder subscription fee, even if you go weeks forgetting you have the channel. It's scary, funny, and most importantly, new. This is what we horror fans dream of finding in new genre entries.The Sand,


  1. 1) I LOVE Cube.
    2) I really liked A Dark Song, and am happy someone else has seen it! It had some flaws but overall I thought it was quite good, and the angel scene near the end was so strange (I couldn't tell whether I was supposed to be comforted or terrified) and cool that it actually elevated the entire movie for me.
    3) I'm intrigued by Anything For Jackson, will add it to the list.
    4) A Puppy For Xmas -- good grief. Fast and Furriest -- double good grief. I don't know how you come across this stuff, let alone how you watch it. I applaud your commitment to checking out wack stuff.

    1. I listen to the soundtrack for A Dark Song sometimes. It's chilling perfection! If you haven't already, another film I recently watched that reminded me of its mood was Saint Maude.

      A Puppy for Christmas is one of the LEAST terrible of the not-quite-Hallmark-genre, so just IMAGINE the life I lead!

    2. I just watched Saint Maud. A few other people had recommended it to me a while ago so I finally hit it. It was pretty good! I can see how you would be reminded of A Dark Song (especially what with the big angel scenes) but I was more reminded of The Blackcoat's Daughter -- both were basically stories of young women driven to delusion by religion. I was also reminded of the Suspiria remake because of the almost male-free cast. I love when a film doesn't just pass the Bechdel test but shreds and burns it, and effortlessly at that.

    3. Oooooh good call on Blackcoat's Daughter! They all occupy this great, super-female spooky place that I love. I owe the Suspiria remake a rewatch. I saw it in the theater on an empty stomach and I think it made it impossible for me to see the masterpiece that everyone else did!

    4. Oh man, I loved the Suspiria remake. I'd love to know how you feel about it on second watch, although I personally find I rarely feel differently about a film the second time around. I feel that if I watch a good film under not-ideal circumstances and end up not enjoying it, when I revisit it I still have negative associations from the first watch and they colour my experience of the film ever after. It sucks, sort of a no second chances thing. Anyway, that's all to say that I hope you are more successful than me at re-watching flicks and that you enjoy Suspiria 2018 more the second time around!

    5. I just watched Anything For Jackson on your recommendation, and it wasn't bad! By far the best Shudder Original I've seen. I agree a lot of the scenes were a bit too dark, I had trouble making out what was going on several times, but overall it was fun, had a lot of surprises, and was pretty well acted.

      Oh and I definitely got some A Dark Song vibes from it. Not just from the Satanic dead child resurrection ritual but also the weird angry dude leading the ritual that we don't know much about. That's not a bad thing though! That character, Ian, was my fave in Anything For Jackson by far, he was hilarious.

      Anyway, thanks and congrats on yet another good recommendation.

    6. Yes! The dirty redheaded occult expert! Very similar DNA.

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Just watched this one and thanks for pointing it out.
    I liked it OK... but I felt like the resolution was somewhat rushed and... random?

    It did make me want to go watch 'A Dark Song' again... as well as the 'Bobby' segment of the horror anthology 'Dead of Night' from 1977.

    1. I'm surprised! I do get the abruptness of the ending leaving you a bit underwhelmed.

      I'm so glad to see more and more people celebrate A Dark Song. It came in so quietly, but I think the horror genre is slowly embracing it and in ten years, it will be considered a damn high standard.

      And holy crap, have I not seen Dead of Night??? I need to correct that ASAP!

    2. 'Dead of Night' was made for TV... and it's not all that remarkable... but I do like its final segment (which was redone in another made for TV anthology, but I think that version is the lesser).

    3. I remember constantly getting it confused with Deathdream (occasionally known as Dead of Night) and the 1940s Dead of Night. THERE'S A LOT OF DEAD IN THAT NIGHT!