Movie THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT review: Lars von Trier is again trying to shock

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Movie THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT review  -  Photo credit:, edition by Amber255 via

The scandalous Danish film director Lars Von Trier, persona non grata in the Cannes Film Festival for five years, after a long break, returns with another controversial project - a dark horror thriller full of violence - THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT. This horror thriller can shock even the film gourmets who have seen everything.

In 2011, there was a scandal here, when the director started talking about sympathy to Adolf Hitler in a press conference dedicated to his Melancholia. The festival did not like it, and Lars von Trier was announced a persona non grata in the festival. This year, he was invited again, but the new film was shown outside of the competition program.

So, after more than six years, returning to this festival, the director enters into the world of the intelligent serial killer, embodied by actor Matt DillonLars von Trier, the winner of the Golden Palm Award, was announced as a persona non grata, reveals twelve years of psychosis, darkness, and bloody deaths.

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    The Short Story Of The Movie 

The action moves the viewer to Washington in the 1980s, where Jack carries out horrific murders that are performed by his inner demon Verge (Bruno Ganz). The film's hero - Jack (Matt Dillon), an engineer by profession, anarchist by dreams, and a serial killer by vocation. Jack wants to build a dream house. And systematically killing people - about sixty victims.

Jack has an area of land where he tries to build a house. At the middle of work, he feels dissatisfied and is starting to change again and again by exchanging materials and drawings. Until he realizes that the structure he is destined to leave after himself is not the construction of wood or concrete, but the pillars and arches of frozen bodies. 

Through 12 years of the brilliant career of the murderer, Jack met a nasty fellow traveler, naive girl, and other charming victims in their stupidity. Jack tells to his inner demon about five murders.  Five incredible, horrible inventive and sometimes to laugh absurd murders, each of which Jack refers to as a true work of art. 

THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT Official Trailer - Video credit: movietrailers vai

He tells about how he started killing people and why he is doing all that. He talks about the connection between murder and art, the similarities between the initiators and creators of genocide. His inner demon listens, comments, engages in a dispute, and then, of course, appears in the film.

The killer at the start of the film faced with not the most pleasant woman, which is beautifully played by Uma Thurman, and she starts to suspect him being a serial killer. She certainly is not wrong. But Jack is ready to answer - his inner demon keeps everything in his hands.

Will she become yet another victim of Jack's inner voice? Or maybe she'll manage to curb the demon who dwelt in it? The destiny itself will answer these questions.


Uma Thurman and Matt Dillon in THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT - Photo credit:

The Content Of The Movie

Lars von Trier is really an extraordinary person in the film industry, whose films are expected with joy and fear. And if most of his films create a really uncomfortable feeling while watching, while others make to admire them, anyway, it's simply not possible not to talk about them.

Personally, this film director imposts for his perseverance and the desire to troll all the boring persons gathered at various film festivals. And that he's doing well because, in the middle of his films, many snobs leave
cinema halls which would rather watch for a half hour at one leaf falling down than they try to dig into the darkest implementations of the director's fantasies on the screen.

As for his work, I would just note out the perfect Nymphomaniac because of the courage and the dramatic psychological context of the drama that made it possible to perceive in a very clear way all the allusions to the primordial nature of mankind left by the director.


Matt Dillon in a horror thriller THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT - Photo credit:

Also, I would have mentioned the wonderful and poetic Dogville and one of the lightest works by Larry von Trier, 2000's Dancer in the Dark. All these films gave me meaningful previews, after which I sat for a long time and tried to think about each scene, and at the same time, I tried to grasp the dialogues which the director tried to manipulate the viewers with.

This film has become to me one of the most awaited films of this year for 3 main reasons: Larry Von Trier, talented Matt Dillon, and some pretty attractive themes. But if the tape was able to justify my high expectations, here is the question.

We do not see any novelty in THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT. The serial maniac theme was already shown on many films of this genre. Therefore, it's not surprising that when I was watching this movie, it seemed to me that the director before going to write a script had been examining previously released movies for a few weeks. What films - you ask me? I can name three, which I think, are the most cognate to the movie THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT.


Films about serial maniacs THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT -  Photo credit:

The director John McNaughton has created an independent and criminal drama Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, which attempted to look at maniac through a sufficiently humanly prism. The film's style and narrative manner remind work's specific of Lars Von Trier.  Another film, which really has a lot to do with this movie, is the thriller Mr. Brooks. And this film has a lot to do with the main character of the hero and his unspeakable alter ego. And the third movie, which in my opinion was also inspired THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT, is Maniac. It does not matter whether it's an original one from the 1980 or the 2012 refilmed movie, it basically does not change the fact - some very cruel details were taken from these films

Disregarding the fact that the tape does not look fresh, it is still the work of Lars von Trier, who managed to hide a lot of surprises in the storyline. The film is not boring; it looks vibrant, and even interesting because you do not know what's next going on. It really burns the obvious minuses associated with copying a common story from other similar films.

True, I would not recommend a movie to watch those who have weak nerves or those who do not like violence. In this film, there is so much violence that some films of the same genre look like a fairy tale for children in front of the vivid director's imagination. In this movie, deaths are absurd, sometimes funny, or it's forcing to cover your eyes because of excessive blood levels on the screen, but the presentation of such scenes is worth the applause. 



All this can be interpreted in a unique way - as a passive-aggressive confession, a showdown with the public and even with the criticism. Otherwise, THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT would simply be a two-and-a-half-hour tasteless black comedy, a provocation for the sake of provocation: here is a dead duckling, here is a dead child, who else wants to leave the hall? 

Lars Von Trier has that aesthetic sense and knows when to shock and when to let it enjoy even the most macabre moments in the movie.

The overall atmosphere is playful, fearful, calm and keeping in tension together. Therefore, if I had to compare with the other films he created, THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT  would be most like the Nymphomaniac. Even the narrative style is identical here. Is it okay? Well, if the director is capable of copying himself, but to give another kind of senses, why not.

After watching the movie, I wondered if I liked the film or not. And so far I cannot find the answer. Obviously, I need to watch it again, because it has something that attracts, but it also repels. But without a doubt, the film needs to be seen not only by the fans of the Lars Von Trier but also by people who enjoy dark and violent thrillers about people who do not value the life of other people.


Matt Dillon in THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT - Photo credit:

The Heroes Of The Film

There was a few of them, but I think, it would be right to concentrate on Jack and his alter ego Verge.  These are extremely interesting and sufficiently independent characters who cannot survive without each other. 

Jack represents the classic model of a maniac with a voice in mind, but at the same time, he is not a mental patient as it would seem at first glance. He's genial, like the Hannibal Lecter or the serial killer who signed as a Zodiac in San Francisco on the eighth decade of the 1990s.

Jack : Some people claim that the atrocities we commit in our fiction are those inner desires which we cannot commit in our controlled civilization, so they're expressed instead through our art. I don't agree. I believe Heaven and Hell are one and the same. The soul belongs to Heaven and the body to Hell.


Jack is not able to love, unable to feel anything except the pain. He does not have the only mode of murdering (although he is more inclined to suffocate the victim). His crimes insofar as they can be judged, are not connected with sexual attraction. He does not care about the sex and age of the victims: women came up more often because it is easier with them. 


Movie THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT review - Photo credit:

Sometimes he is gloomy, sometimes eloquent, sometimes harsh, sometimes mild. But the irony of the situation is that nobody is even searching for him. Because people are indifferent idiots. Jack teases policemen, shouting help in the middle of the night street, once carrying a corpse, tied it with a cable to the car and leaving a bloody footprint on the way. But all are indifferent; even more, the surrounding ones - women in particular - actually urge them to kill, like Uma Thurman in the first episode of the film.

In other words, he is not a special case of a serial killer, but rather a cliché collection about them: carries corpses into a freezer, where they lie beside pizza piles, photographs dead in artistic poses, values his name given by newspapers - alias Mr. Sophistication.

Verge, shortened from Virgil. The same Virgil, who guided the excursions for Dante to the hell. Verge also has his plans, he thoroughly picks up the victim and makes himself a bit of a manipulator for Jack. Such tandem also causes the sympathy and, at the same time, disappointment with the work they do.  It's a pity that I cannot reveal the specific details of these characters, as it would become a rich spoiler. 


Movie review of Horror Thriller THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT - Photo credit:

The Technical Side Of The Movie

There is really no need to talk about aesthetics in Lars Von Trier films. The film is very beautiful, and most importantly, the band has been able to convey the atmosphere of the 80s and 90s, thanks to fashion, people's beliefs, decorations and, of course, hairstyles and costumes. And there's good makeup too here. I even wondered how many liters of blood (or paint) were needed here to extract such terrible images? Obviously, a tank with red liquid was waiting close to the shooting place.

Separate thanks to the operator's work. I even had to turn away my eyes a few times, although I am a very strong nervous observer, and it is impossible to surprise me or scare me with films. But Manuel Alberto Claro, responsible for camera work, succeeded. In addition, this operator amazes us in previous Lars films. 

When it comes to music, it's simply not possible to not admire it. Personally to me, it was one of the most beautiful and pleasant to ears soundtracks that were heard in 2018.  The music presented in the film not only transmits the atmosphere of the shown period perfectly but also manages to play with all possible emotions during the preview.

I cannot say anything bad to the video and audio editing too. Truly, technically, the film looks solid enough, and the presentation of the storyline, even for a moment, does not force you to feel uncomfortable. The story is told smoothly, which makes the movie not boring. 

 THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT- Press Conference - Video credit: Matiop9813 via

 The Collective Work Of The Actors

Matt Dillon, who embodied the main character of the film -Jack, not only showed his talent here but also that he is one of the underestimated actors of our day. He started his career very well with Gus Van Sant, Michael Jenkins, Arthur Penn, and even Francis Ford Coppola, but in the mid-90s he lost somewhere in the midst of obscure film projects.

And only in 2004, with Oscar's thriller Crash, his name appeared again on the lips of critics and film professionals. True, not for long. Therefore, I was very pleased that Lars Von Trier had entrusted him with such a complex and highly-crafted role. Bravo, Matt, Bravo! I hope in the future he will enjoy us with such performances as in this film.


Matt Dillon and Bruno Ganz in THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT - Photo credit:

Bruno Ganz, who is best known for the role of Adolph Hitler in the film Downfall, became apparently the best actor in the second-rate roles of this film. He, together with Matt, really made up a great tandem that delighted us through all the minutes of the movie.

Other actors who shone in the film also became Uma Thurman, who has worked already with Lars Von Trier in the past, Sofie Gråbøl, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, and Riley Keough.

On The Final Note

Lars von Trier returned and showed an allegory about the murderer, sending one woman after other into another world. By the way, the victims themselves provoke executioner with their stupidity, greed, and stereotypes. They become the ideal infernal art material for Jack - the architect, artist perfectionist, human soul's engineer, mercilessly revealing our secret fears, desires, and flaws. 

Lars von Trier once argued that art is an ideal crime and vice versa, and the film is a religion without morality. There are good films, bad films, and the Lars von Trier films that you can love and hate - just like life.

THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT - a playfully dark, decorated with macabre scenes, but at the same time, an easy to watch thriller about a serial killer. Although it does not surprise with any novelty in the storyline but amazes by the brand-style of director Lars Von Trier and a strong performance of Oscar-nominated actor Matt Dillon.


Matt Dillon, Lars von Trier, and Siobhan Fallon Hogan at an event for THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT - Photo credit:

THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT is purely autobiographical. This is a deep, bitter, essentially subversive essay on the immorality of creativity and the fact that questions of good and evil cannot be discussed seriously, having taken the position of a moralist. And it is particularly taken by the critics of the film who cover themselves with the theses of narcissism, and tastelessness by Trier.

Strange, those who did not leave the cinema hall in the middle of the seance, applauded after the movie. For many, THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT is the best film of the year. But the whole praise of the world is nothing, for a person who, for some reason, has never felt loved. After all, if it would not sound banal, love was the main thing that could give us life.

I wish I didn't have a grading system for movies like this. A film this strange and subversive...there are a lot of brilliant moments, and a lot of moments designed for you to hate them. - Chris Stuckmann



My rating: 9.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 63/100
Critics average: 92/100
IMDb: 7.3/10

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