Fantasia 2020: ‘Anything for Jackson’ Puts the Host Back in Ghost
Grief is a theme we all understand; it’s a great despair that can torture you inescapably. In the horror genre, grief often works as a backdrop, allowing a story to build on the possibilities that desperation and loss can inspire. Some would do anything to get back what they’ve lost. In Anything for Jackson, doctor Henry Walsh (Julian Richings, Supernatural) and his wife Audrey (Sheila McCarthy, The Umbrella Academy) are two such people.
After the tragic death of their grandson, Henry and Audrey make the ill-advised decision to kidnap a very pregnant woman and perform a dark ritual (a reverse exorcism, if you will) that will bring Jackson back into the world of the living, via the yet-to-be-born child. The Walshes have all the confidence of two affluent Satanists who really have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. They’ve thought out every contingency, except the one that turns their home into a revolving door of malicious spirits. Because once you open a door to the other realm, every ghost that wants a host will come clambering through.
Richings and McCarthy are Canadian genre royalty, so to see them on screen together is a real treat. McCarthy is utterly charming as Audrey, the maternal-minded driving force behind the couple’s risky caper. She’s very sweet and well-intentioned, which makes her highly questionable actions even more surprising. Audrey exudes a naivete that’s humorously contradictory to the matter-of-fact way she manages the whole “abduction for a reverse exorcism” thing.
Richings as Henry is ever the doting husband. There’s a touch of sadness in his performance that keeps his character grounded, even as control slips quickly from his grasp. You feel for Henry, who’s just doing his best to try to keep everything according to plan. It’s easy to forget that what Henry and Audrey are doing is very wrong; they’re both so poised and sweet that you don’t even question it.
There’s been enough time since Jackson’s passing that the emotional wound isn’t still fresh, which allows Audrey and Henry to approach the kidnapping with a practical and clinical focus. Early scenes of their orientation with their abductee, Becker (Konstantina Mantelos), are actually quite funny. Audrey stiffly reads a prepared statement in a scene that’s just so out-of-place wholesome that — were you the one handcuffed to the bed — you’d almost want to play along, just to be nice (or perhaps that’s just me being deeply Canadian).
Anything for Jackson has a fantastically creepy ambiance that’s maintained through strategic lighting and colour, and sound editing that works in collaboration with the film’s many practical effects. If you’re a fan of practical effects (and who isn’t), Anything for Jackson delivers with its horrific ghost designs. There’s one ghost that falls a bit flat, though its context makes it more tragic than terrifying. Using both prosthetics and performance, some of the ghosts are a thing of nightmares — quite literally. If you’ve ever had a dream about your teeth falling out, I must warn you, this film will probably make you uncomfortable (and it’s excellent).
The pacing tends to slow a bit between these scenes of ghoulish fun, but there are enough surprises to grab your attention. Anything for Jackson has mastered the art of the shocking turn, with some moments that have that same sudden hit as The Omen (it’s all for you, Jackson). Each shift is swift and effective. Director Justin G. Dyck wields these moments well.
In horror, we so often see young protagonists getting into trouble for all the wrong reasons. In Anything for Jackson, it’s actually quite refreshing to see an older generation take their turn with the terrible decisions. Their mission is born (no pun intended) from a deep place of grief and loss, not from pure dumb curiosity or greed. They’ve followed all the instructions carefully with the intention of bringing a spirit back; this is no inconvenient-yet-for-the-sake-of-the-plot accident. They didn’t stumble upon this book locked in a basement, they sought it out with full knowledge of what it was capable of.
And therein lies the crux of the film: what would you do for someone you love. What risks would you take to mend a broken heart. There are layers of guilt and grief that flood the film, working to build a balance with the many spooks and scares. That said, this equilibrium often leans away from the heavy side of the scale, so it doesn’t quite drag the film down as much as it could have, were it to take a more serious approach. This makes it a more accessible film, but the tone is perhaps a bit muddled as a result.
Peppered with genuinely unsettling spirits and some bloody surprises, Anything for Jackson is a cautionary tale that tackles emotional themes without getting too lost in its sorrow. Some parents would move Heaven and Earth for their children, but for Jackson, Hell will do just fine.
For more on Anything for Jackson, click here. For more from Fantasia Fest 2020, check out my review of Yummy.
Jean-Claude Van Damme Rumored to Appear as a Ghost in ‘Beetlejuice 2’
During The Hot Mic Podcast, the crew spoke about Jenna Ortega in talks to play Lydia’s daughter. Well, it turns out that the guys on Hot Mic also heard that an aging action star is set to play a ghost in the sequel as well. Over on Arrow in the Head, the direction of the aging action star immediately took the shape of Jean-Claude Van Damme. However, there are options out there that may point to other action stars like Sylvester Stallone. To be honest we would be totally fine with either of these guys coming to the world of Beetlejuice and playing a ghost.
The synopsis for Beetlejuice went like this:
After Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) die in a car accident, they find themselves stuck haunting their country residence, unable to leave the house. When the unbearable Deetzes (Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones) and teen daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) buy the home, the Maitlands attempt to scare them away without success. Their efforts attract Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a rambunctious spirit whose “help” quickly becomes dangerous for the Maitlands and innocent Lydia.
We can’t wait to find out if this bit of info is true. So far, we know that Jenna Ortega has been in talks to play Lydia’s daughter in the Tim Burton directd sequel. It will also see a return of Michael Keaton.
We will be sure to keep you updated on future Beetlejuice sequel updates.
‘The Lighthouse’ Comes to Special 4K UHD A24 Collectors Release
If it is one thing we know it is that we love Robert Eggers. Between The VVitch and The Lighthouse we were made into huge fans. Next up, Eggers will take on Nosferatu. In the meantime, A24 has released a very special edition release of The Lighthouse on 4K UHD.
The synopsis for The Lighthouse goes like this:
Two lighthouse keepers try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
Disc extras include:
○ Director’s Commentary with Robert Eggers
○ Exclusive mini-documentary on composer Mark Korven
○ Costume walkthrough and interview with costume designer Linda Muir
○ 2019 making-of featurette
○ Deleted scenes Book contents include:
○ Storyboard excerpts by David Cullen
○ Production design drawings by Craig Lathrop
○ BTS photography by Eric Chakeen
○ Bib-front shirt pattern made by Marvin Schlichting to Linda Muir’s design
We can’t wait to add this one to our collection. You can pick up your very own copy right over HERE at A24.
‘Scream VII’ Greenlit, But Should the Franchise Take a Decade-Long Rest Instead?
Bam! Bam! Bam! No that’s not a shotgun inside the bodega in Scream VI, it’s the sound of producer’s fists rapidly hitting the green light button to further franchise favorites (i.e. Scream VII).
With Scream VI barely out of the gate, and a sequel reportedly filming this year, it seems horror fans are the ultimate target audience to get ticket sales back at the box office and away from “press play” streaming culture. But maybe it’s too much too soon.
If we haven’t learned our lesson already, banging out cheap horror movies in quick succession isn’t exactly a fool-proof strategy to get butts in theater seats. Let’s pause in a moment of silence to remember the recent Halloween reboot/retcon. Although the news of David Gordon Green blowing off the gossamer and resurrecting the franchise in three installments was great news in 2018, his final chapter did nothing but put the tarnish back on the horror classic.
Possibly drunk on the moderate success of his first two films, Green advanced to a third one very quickly but failed to provide fan service. Criticisms of Halloween Ends mainly hinged on the lack of screen time given to both Michael Myers and Laurie Strode and instead on a new character that didn’t have anything to do with the first two films.
“Honestly, we never once considered making a Laurie and Michael movie,” the director told Moviemaker. “The concept that it should be a final showdown-type brawl never even crossed our minds.”
How’s that again?
Although this critic enjoyed the last film, many found it off-course and perhaps a stand-alone that should have never been connected to the redeveloped canon. Remember Halloween came out in 2018 with Kills releasing in 2021 (thanks to COVID) and finally Ends in 2022. As we know, the Blumhouse engine is fueled by brevity from script to screen, and although it can’t be proven, hammering out the last two films so quickly might have been integral to its critical undoing.
Which brings us to the Scream franchise. Will Scream VII get underbaked purely because Paramount wants to reduce its cooking time? Also, too much of a good thing can make you sick. Remember, everything in moderation. The first movie was released in 1996 with the next almost exactly a year later, then the third three years after that. The latter is considered the weaker of the franchise, but still solid.
Then we enter the decade release timeline. Scream 4 released in 2011, Scream (2022) 10 years after that. Some may say, “well hey, the difference in release times between the first two Scream movies was exactly that of the reboot.” And that is correct, but consider that Scream (’96) was a film that changed horror movies forever. It was an original recipe and ripe for back-to-back chapters, but we are now five sequels deep. Thankfully Wes Craven kept things sharp and entertaining even through all the parodies.
Conversely, that same recipe also survived because it took a decade-long hiatus, giving new trends time to develop before Craven attacked the newer tropes in another installment. Remember in Scream 3, they still used fax machines and flip phones. Fan theory, social media and online celebrity were developing fetuses at that time. Those trends would be incorporated into Craven’s fourth movie.
Fast-forward another eleven years and we get Radio Silence’s reboot (?) which made fun of the new terms “requel” and “legacy characters.” Scream was back and fresher than ever. Which leads us to Scream VI and a change of venue. No spoilers here, but this episode seemed oddly reminiscent of re-hashed past storylines, which may have been a satire in and of itself.
Now, it’s been announced that Scream VII is a go, but it leaves us to wonder how such a short hiatus is going to fare with nothing in the horror zeitgeist to channel. In all of this race to get the big bucks, some are saying Scream VII could only top its predecessor by bringing back Stu? Really? That, in my opinion, would be a cheap effort. Some also say, that sequels often bring in a supernatural element, but that would be out of place for Scream.
Could this franchise do with a 5-7 year hiatus before it ruins itself on principle? That break would allow time and new tropes to develop — the franchise’s life’s blood — and mostly the power behind its success. Or is Scream heading into the “thriller” category, where the characters are just going to face another killer(s) in a mask without the irony?
Perhaps that is what the new generation of horror fans want. It could work of course, but the spirit of the canon would be lost. True fans of the series will spot a bad apple if Radio Silence does anything uninspired with Scream VII. That’s a lot of pressure. Green took a chance in Halloween Ends and that didn’t pay off.
All that being said, Scream, if anything, is a masterclass at building hype. But hopefully, these movies don’t turn into the campy iterations they make fun of in Stab. There is still some life left in these films even if Ghostface doesn’t have time to catnap. But as they say, New York never sleeps.