Review: The House That Jack Built

The House That Jack Built
6 10

PLOT: Jack (Matt Dillon), a prolific serial killer, reflects on his crimes while on the way to hell.

REVIEW: Always provocative, THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT is pure, un-distilled Lars von Trier. Non fans need not apply and if by chance you haven’t seen any of his films, this is not the one to start with. You need to build up a tolerance if you’re going to be able to make it through what ranks as one of his most difficult to watch films, but also, despite everything, one that’s never less than intriguing.

Much has been said about von Trier’s misogyny and certainly, his critics will have no trouble faulting THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT, which features numerous scenes of grotesque violence against women. Sure, children, animals and even the occasional man also fall prey to him, but none are as thoroughly debased as the women characters, making this a deeply troubling film.

However, von Trier, despite his posturing, doesn’t make his own intentions or feelings clear. Jack is indeed a mouthpiece for some vile, anti-woman hate speech that could have been pulled off of an alt-right forum, but you’re not supposed to sympathize with Jack even for a moment. He is, after all, a serial killer. While an early killing, where he dispatches Uma Thurman’s annoying hitchhiker is played for laughs, as is a grotesquely funny “incident” involving the great Siobhan Fallon Hogan, later episodes are gut-wrenchingly tragic. Particularly troubling is a long, sadistic game he plays with a mother and her two young children, while wearing a red baseball cap that looks an awful lot like a MAGA hat, which has a horrific end. For me, THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT almost became unbearable during a long sequence with Riley Keough as the closest thing Jack ever gets to a domestic partner, who he abuses emotionally before finally doing away with her in so gruesome a fashion I was almost sick.

Certainly, when IFC puts this out in North America, it’ll be slapped with an NC-17, as no amount of cutting can likely make this palatable to the mainstream. Horror fans may be drawn in by the way it’s being sold as a quasi-horror tale, but SE7EN (or even HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER) this is not. It’s for the art-house, through and through. To that end, THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT gives star Matt Dillon one of his all-time greatest roles. Formerly one of the screen’s biggest heartthrobs, he’s forever changed his image and disappears thoroughly into the part. It’s one of the performances of the year. Likewise, the supporting cast is superb, with Bruno Ganz as the film’s conscience, being the Roman poet Virgil, who’s been tasked with delivering Jack to hell, something which becomes the crux of the movie’s final act.

Von Trier is without a doubt a troubling director. Truth be told, I hate his movies as much as a like them. I think BREAKING THE WAVES was the only one I loved unreservedly, but he’s an immense talent. In anyone else’s hands, THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT would have been a bargain-basement VOD flick. In his, it’s something like art; although it’s easy to understand how this sparked so many walkouts and negative reviews at Cannes (I saw it in Montreal as part of the Festival du Nouveau Cinema). I think it’s a good movie and I’m glad I saw it. That said, there’s no chance I’ll ever watch it again because the experience of actually sitting through it was highly unpleasant.

Source: JoBlo.com



Latest Entertainment News Headlines


Featured Youtube Videos