In spite of indoor public gatherings of up to 250 people being allowed, Montreal’s annual Fantasia Film Festival has opted to go online this year due to COVID-19. The event is described as a “cutting-edge virtual festival, taking place August 20 to September 2, 2020.” Among the festival’s offerings this year is the film Anything for Jackson, a horror film whose subject matter is reminiscent of the 1970s films of the same genre. I had the privilege of speaking with star Konstantina Mantelos about her role, and the effect the pandemic has had on the film industry.

Anything for Jackson is about Mantelos’ character, Shannon Becker, who at eight months pregnant is kidnapped by a pair of elderly Satanists, played by Canadian actors Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings. The two Satanists are hoping to bring back their dead grandson via a Satanic ritual involving Becker’s unborn child. When I pointed out the similarities of the plot to 1970s horror films, Mantelos enthusiastically agreed.

“When the director and writer first met with me they referenced Rosemary’s Baby meets Hereditary. They really pulled on a lot of older, classic horror film ideas and they modernized it. They’ve taken a new twist on horror films that are happening right now and used these themes as metaphors for real life things that we face. It sounds like a zany concept, but there’s a lot of love in the story, there’s a lot of themes of motherhood and caring for those you love, and that’s really what’s at the centre of the story.”

Konstantina Mantelos

I wondered if given this ongoing trend in horror, Mantelos felt the film’s subject matter was especially relevant given the current apocalyptic times, or whether Anything for Jackson was just a bit of fun. Mantelos laughed and said it was a bit of both.

“I think there’s an interesting factor in the story, an older couple trying to bring back their grandson with no regard for the fact that they are doing this to a young woman who has her future ahead of her and who has this child that she would love and be her own. There’s a sort of selfishness there, as well-meaning as these two are, as you’ll see in the film that they are quite endearing, at the end of the day there is a sort of slightly larger metaphor of older generation: what’s happened to the planet, what we as a younger generation are facing now. There’s a little bit of that. We discussed it when we were working on the film that we think is not a prominent theme in the film, but what I think can be gleaned from it.”

When I asked which of the countless horror sub-genres Anything for Jackson fell into, Mantelos said that despite the subject matter seeming quite campy, the movie sits more within the realm of reality.

“The stuff that we’re facing is quite out of this world, but the way it’s dealt with is in a quite down to earth, dark manner.”

Given the intensity of the part she plays in the movie, I was curious as to the challenges she faced working on the film. Mantelos laughed at this question, discussing the challenge of playing someone who is eight months pregnant when she herself has never been pregnant.

She did some research and reached out to friends who have been pregnant. Mantelos speaks affectionately about how helpful her co-star Sheila McCarthy was when speaking about her own pregnancy experience, and about the extreme emotional and physical changes involved. She described the heavy jelly-filled pregnancy vest she had to wear throughout most of the filming day, and the challenge of being chained to a bed for much of the film.

Given all the talk in the media about the decline in the arts due to the pandemic, I wanted to know how it had affected Mantelos’ work. She pointed out the obvious decline in auditions she was getting, as well as many productions shutting down.

“Funny story, we shot this film — it was a three-week shooting schedule. We literally wrapped on the day that all production got shut down. I essentially went from this very hectic, busy shooting schedule to coming back home to Toronto and essentially being stuck in my house!”

Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings in Anything for Jackson

Though auditions have shut down, Mantelos has found a way to make the best of things. She has used the isolation to be productive on personal projects, including screenwriting and producing, which she’d never had time to sit down and give the attention they needed. She mentions that being stuck at home allowed her to complete the first draft of a script she was working on.

When I asked her what else she was getting up to during the pandemic, Mantelos mentioned doing a movie marathon, where she watched a film every day and posted about it on Instagram. Though she no longer watches one every day, she’s already reached 160 movies, mostly fiction. In addition to the movie marathon, she has also been baking, recently making a strawberry and cream bread from The Hobbit Cookbook.

Given how much adapting the arts have had to do since the pandemic started, I asked Mantelos if she thought the changes would be permanent. In response, she mentioned that Anything for Jackson is set to come out on Super Channel Fuse in October, which was planned in advance.

“They’re doing a really wonderful job, and part of it is nice because things like Fantasia are things I always wanted to participate in or have participated in and attended, but a lot of people don’t know that there are things that the public can buy tickets to and the average Joe can get tickets to a big movie premier, and it’s really amazing that it’s accessible. In that way it’s nice because now people are going to be able to access the premier all across Canada, and that’s something wouldn’t have happened if we were doing a traditional red carpet premier in the theatre.”

Anything for Jackson premieres tomorrow, September 1, 2020, as part of the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival. Info and tickets available through FantasiaFestival.com

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* This post was submitted by an anonymous 15 year old writer.

This summer, I came down from Canada to California to see my aunt, uncle and cousin for the third year in a row. Over the past three summers, I’ve babysat my cousin both in their house and outside in public.

I get looks from tons of people, just passersby, average people. Although the looks I’ve been getting aren’t average. These are dirty, nasty; terrible looks.

It took me until now to realize what they were for. A teenager walking with a child. People are so quick to assume that it’s mine. That I’m a teenage mom.

This never occurred to me as I had no idea that of the stereo types faced by teenage moms. I looked the topic up on twitter and as I refreshed my newsfeed, I read tons and tons of people talking down on teenage moms. I don’t understand why it’s so wrong but its peoples own opinions, I guess.

I was walking back to their house and I was thinking: what if this baby was really mine, if she wasn’t my cousin, what if she were my daughter? I wondered if the looks would affect me more than they do now.

In fact, at the moment they hardly make me turn my head because not only am I used to it, I also know that they’re for the wrong reason. I’m saying this from the prospective of a teenager with their baby cousin in public; what I’m curious of is what it would be like from the prospective of a teenage parent. I’d assume that it’s painful to know that people are so against what you think is right.

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Being the summer of 2013, the gay rights movement is all over the news. The state of California has now made it legal, there are marriages going on and more and more people are supporting people’s personal choices for their sexuality.

If someone were to down talk gay rights or being homosexual in any way, there would be someone there to act back, to tell them they’re wrong. But there’s not really anybody there to stand up for any teenage parent who’s chosen to keep their child.

While having a child is an option or a choice and homosexuals are born that way, having children at a young age can be fate as well.

My point in all this is there’s nobody to stand up for the teenage parents and as wrong as it may sound to you; I support them. It was their choice to accept the life change that they encountered by having a child at a young age and not yours.

People need to stop being judgemental and accept. Things happen. Remember; Live and Let Live.