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Justin G. Dyck Would Do Anything For Jackson: Christmas Love Movie Director Delivers This Year’s Coldest Horror

“When we decided to make them grandparents, all kinds of other things fell into place.” Director Justin G. Dyck on the casting of Julian Richings and Sheila McCarthy as grieving grandparents with an evil plan in Everything for Jackson.

Any niche can be very introverted. This is as true for horror as it is for any other genre, so when Justin G. Dyck launched his icy supernatural thriller Everything for Jackson, because it was his first horror film, a lot of people thought it was his first feature film. “It’s like my first movie,” laughed the director, but that’s not the whole story.

Dyck has planned to make a horror film throughout his career as a filmmaker, and finally realizes that ambition with the story of a pleasant older couple – veteran actors Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings as Audrey and Henry. Walsh – abducting a pregnant woman (Konstantina Mantelos). Their goal is not malicious: they just want to use a black magic ritual to put the soul of their deceased grandson into the body of their unborn baby. Isn’t that what any beloved grandparent would do?

The story is far removed from other Dyck films, with titles like A very rustic wedding, Christmas catch, and A Christmas village. Let’s just say he deviated from his route for a few years. Around 2014, he was doing what so many hopeful independent filmmakers are doing to pay the bills: making corporate music and videos, and taking editing and cinematography gigs. He was ready to scramble it to make his first feature film (all he needed, he said, was “$ 10 and a camera and five people and a wood somewhere”), but a little funding goes. a long way, so he reached out to one of the producers he worked with regularly, he had a stack of horror ideas and asked her if she could bring the backers together. She agreed, arranged meetings, and came back with some sort of response. Dyck said: “She said, ‘OK, I funded a movie, but it’s about a kid playing soccer with a monkey. What do you think? “” This is how his first feature film director credit ended up being Monkey in the middle, about a boy and his simian boyfriend who plays football.

With credit under his belt, Dyck was sure he would get to make this $ 10 indie horror, but “the monkey movie turned into another animal movie, but this time they were talking and then it went. just skyrocketed, and I got into the Christmas Movies. ” This is how Dyck racked up 29 feature film director credits in six years, plus 11 episodes of Pony sitters club, and has built a reputation as a foolproof filmmaker.

Yet while these films seem like a digression from its original goal of making independent horror, they have proven to be stepping stones to Everything for Jackson. Even though the subject had changed, he said, “People knew I could run a set and work with a team.”

Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings in Everything for Jackson, now streaming on Shudder

Austin Chronicle: So where did the idea for a drama of sincere possession come from?

Justin g dyck: I built my career around these family entertainment romances and movies, but we kept pushing and trying to find this horror concept that someone is going to fund us for. We were shopping for four or five ideas, and when we had a meeting they said, “What’s wrong with you in supernatural space?” “Oh, yes, we have a few. Let us assemble them and send them to you. On our way back in the car we went, “Well, we need ghost movies.” ”

But ghost movies are a pretty popular subgenre, so we had to find a way to make it different. What’s in a ghost movie? Well, is there exorcism? What is the opposite of an exorcism? I guess the soul put in a body. Well what does it look like? Why would anyone want to do this?

And like I said, we wanted to make a movie where the protagonist and the antagonist were a little blurry. Who are you really promoting for? So it all came from there.

THAT: It’s easy for a filmmaker to be cataloged. I recently spoke with Robert Rodriguez about how unusual he was because he can make children’s films, and so few of his peers are that lucky even though they would love him. Did you have any reservations, being the Christmas guy who wants to make horror movies?

JGD: I wouldn’t say we’ve had a lot of criticism from the producers and people we’ve met, but I’ve also heard that everyone will be nice to you at the table. The people were nice and appreciated the locations, but it certainly took us a long time to get it done. So maybe there were, behind closed doors. “You can’t buy the Christmas guy a movie!” ”

But I think it comes from social networks more than producers. People who work on a movie every day know how difficult it is. We all say, “Yeah, you do that, but we all do whatever it takes to get food on the table.” ”

“We say, especially with writing, that we have to learn the rules before we can break them … Everything for Jackson, our first rule was “we must break all the rules”.

THAT: Christmas movies are like romance novels: there is a formula, and that’s not a bad thing, because audiences know what they want, and that’s what gives these stories a so fast production. While independent horror, what audiences want is something new, so there’s a lot to reinvent the wheel. From a practical point of view, what is the difference as a filmmaker between this set and the other films that you made?

JGD: They say, especially with writing, that you have to learn the rules before you can break them, and I have made 30 films with a classic three-act structure: a boy meets a girl, a boy loses a girl, a boy finds a girl. I’ve done so many of these movies that I have a really good idea of ​​what it is. So when we came to do Everything for Jackson, our first rule was “we must break all the rules”. Story-wise, we had to go as far as possible against expectations, just to make our way out of the predictable entertainment space.

On the set it was certainly quite different but our experience over the years has certainly worked in our favor. It never felt out of hand. I started working on horror sets. My longest day was a 27 hour day. So I was there. I was in the woods when it was cold and I try to take a picture and we light it with car headlights. But my experience of making a Christmas movie with a hundred background actors, and Christmas trees everywhere, and the most romantic gifts, that come into play when I have three ghosts and two actors covered in blood. I think I can contribute some of the organization of my day job to the freelance horror world.

THAT: A 27 hour day gives the impression that someone is trying to reconfigure a complicated practical effect.

JGD: It was snowy, and we had a whole bunch of background actors that had to go home, and we had to send in a whole new set of background actors. It was crazy.

THAT: And you said you wanted to do something different with the ghost story, and you do it by making the grandparents antagonists. We’ve seen movies with grieving parents and ghostly children, the story being a second chance, but for Audrey and Henry it’s the last act of their lives.

JGD: It’s not from this generation, it’s from the next generation. If you’ve been there with parents you have a couple in their mid-thirties, you make the guy fat and muscular, so the kidnapping is a bit easier. But we continued to look at what is expected and how to deal with it. When we decided to make them grandparents, all kinds of other things fell into place. There is an element of class: this generation, its privileges, what they think they deserve compared to what young people today inherit from the world. Which life is most valuable? So when we talked about making grandparents, all of these new things fell into place and we just thought it was something special.

THAT: There’s one description of black that I love is that they’re mean people who do bad things for a good reason. It’s all about intention, and that’s what you have here. Grandparents have a horrible plan, but you can see why they would.

JGD: It’s definitely something we decided to do. I worked with [scriptwriter Keith Cooper] for a long time, and we often talk about how easy it is to feel bad for the little kid who loses their puppy, but it is hard to feel bad for someone who is doing something horrible, and what an exercise amazing to – if not to sympathize, at least to sympathize with someone who does something horrible.

Everything for Jackson is available now on Shudder. Read our review here.