This article was last modified on October 10, 2020.


NIGHTSTREAM review: ANYTHING FOR JACKSON

An aging couple (Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings) is willing to do anything to bring back Jackson, their deceased grandson. A pregnant woman becomes involved and calamity ensues.

The premise is a simple one, and one that all parents can relate to. The protagonists in this story will “do anything for” their grandson Jackson. Parents say this all the time, and to varying degrees actually follow through. Sacrifice to give children a better life is expected. If a child does wrong, a parent is often the strongest defender. Some people take it too far – in my hometown, a father helped his son hide a corpse in the sewer to evade police. His actions were wrong but his motives were understandable.

That being said, no parent – to my knowledge – goes to the extremes that we see here. I don’t think it gives too much away to say a pact with the devil is involved, a compelling vision of suburban devil worship last seen in Ti West’s THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL(2009), and the two films could go head to head. For my money, JACKSON is the darker film, and although some hints of (very dark) comedy are present, the satire of HOUSE is not here. This is straight horror.

The visuals are disturbing. A hardened horror fan with desensitized sensibilities will think nothing of it, but the parts of the pact that go wrong conjure up some very nasty creatures. Again, at the risk of giving too much away, if you open up the gates of hell, sometimes more than you bargain for is coming through the door. One in particular – I can only describe as a spider-walking asphyxiation suicide – would give anyone a heart attack in real life.

Other reviews have claimed that JACKSON revives the horror of “rich white people” that was a trope of the 1980s (see SOCIETY) and recently exemplified by READY OR NOT. The theory is that the film can be seen as a critique of today’s billionaires the same as horror once mocked Reaganomics. Of course, films are open to interpretation and no viewer is “wrong,” but by no means do I see this as something intended by the filmmakers. The couple is “upper middle class” at best; the doctor doesn’t even have the nicest car.

Going back to my earlier point, the horror here is that the worst can come out of the mundane. Parents (or grandparents) who want the best for their kids, and if one person is going to be hurt in exchange for the benefit of their child, so what? All of us, you and me, are the couple at the heart of the story. They are villains, but very sympathetic villains… because they are you and me, but only a few degrees away.

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON screened at the Nightstream 2020 film festival and was one of the better films there. When it inevitably gets pick up by a streaming service or Redbox, it is well worth the rent.

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