The cream of contemporary feature-length cinema isn’t always found in theaters. These days, smaller and more niche films often implement a same-day launch, simultaneously premiering in a select-city theatrical run and on video-on-demand (VOD) services. Moreover, streaming services are now offering original films of their own. Given the dire and disposable state of the horror genre at the multiplex, these release strategies are particularly suited to reaching a wider, more appreciative audience for cinematic chills. For horror fans in a mid- to small-sized movie market such as St. Louis, online streaming and digital rental/purchase are increasingly vital means of accessing noteworthy features. What follows is a brief assessment of the major new horror (and horror-adjacent) films that have premiered on VOD within the past month.

Anything for Jackson
2020 / Canada / 97 min. / Dir. by Justin G. Dyck / Premiered online on Dec. 3, 2020

Individually, the plot elements featured in Justin G. Dyck’s delightfully twisted Anything for Jackson are hardly novel stuff: devil-worshipping senior citizens, demonic possession, malevolent ghosts, a woman held captive, and a forbidden spell inscribed in a crumbling grimoire. However, Dyck and screenwriter Keith Cooper weave these familiar components into a creepy and darkly comic tale whose penchant for nervous escalation owes as much to the Coen Brothers as it does to Rosemary’s Baby. When an elderly couple (Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings) abduct a very pregnant single mother-to-be (Konstantina Mantelos), their ambition to resurrect their dead grandson runs into complication after complication. Dyck plays even the most ridiculous set pieces – e.g., a suicide by snowblower – completely straight, highlighting that the hapless Satanists are in over their heads without ever allowing the film to tip into outright farce. Indeed, Anything for Jackson always remains a horror flick at heart, complete with some truly gruesome, terrifying creature effects.

Rating: B-

Now available to stream from Shudder.