The House That Jack Built is a film for which I knew absolutely nothing when I first saw the trailer. Seemed like a fairly straight-forward drama at first, with Matt Dillon reluctantly pulling over for Uma Thurman, as her car had broken down and she was having trouble with the jack. Then she inadvertently says that “You could be a serial killer for all I know”, followed by the words “A new film by Lars Von Trier” and separate imagery thrown in showing a lion licking its lips…
And I thought, “Oh, here we go…(!)” as I expected some of the extreme madness which followed.
Much to Uma’s character’s disgust, Jack (Dillon) *is* a serial killer, and – you’re watching his thought processes discussed and played out, over five incidents where he’s bumped people off in extremely grisly ways, starting with – as the trailer shows – Uma Thurman and a car jack. That said, sometimes, it’s graphic without being gory-graphic because it’s more a disturbing movie… and VERY disturbing!
I understand that there’s both an R-rated and Director’s Cut version of this film, and I’m not sure which I’ve seen, but if it is only the R-rated version then I think that shows plenty.
However, no matter how many similar films you may have seen in the past, your jaw is sure to drop on a number of occasions.
Jack is like the bad version of Dexter – He killed only the bad people, while Jack doesn’t seem to really care who he bumps off! He also takes pictures of his victims after death, so, clearly, not all his dogs are barking!
Then again, he’s an architect with OCD, so everything has to be overly exact, and is also means he’s very thorough in his post-murder cleaning.
This is the first time in years that I’ve seen a Matt Dillon movie. Where has he been? This is a great comeback, either way. Be advised, however, it’s very graphic, and gross to watch, but utterly compelling when you see what a nutter he is. That said, when this was shown at Cannes, over 100 people couldn’t handle it and walked out. To anyone I would suggest – If you’re thinking about watching this, first check out the trailer below. You will know whether it either draws you in, or repulses you.
Along the way, there’s a kind of narration as he talks through his actions with another man. These sometimes feel like they’re just wittering on and going nowhere, but a bit further on, their relevance shows their hand. I would trim them back a tad, though. As for where this man comes into the whole plot, you’ll have to wait to find that out. All I can tell you, is that it’s a man called Verge, played by Bruno Ganz, possibly best known for a wonderful performance as Adolf Hitler in 2004’s exceptional Downfall. In The House That Jack Built, some of the imagery also includes that of Hitler. This cannot be coincidental.
The only other change I’d make is that the last 20 minutes could be cut down to about half of that, since half of that period is unnecessary.
As an aside, David Bowie’s Fame punctuates many of the scenes, and I do wonder what he would make of it being used in this manner.
Also, for some reason, I understood this was meant to be set in the ’70s, and also based on a real person, but I now can’t find any trace of that anywhere, so perhaps I misread.
Running time: 151 minutes
Studio: Curson Artificial Eye
Released: December 14th 2018
Director: Lars von Trier
Producer: Louise Vesth
Screenplay: Lars von Trier
Story: Jenle Hallund
Jack: Matt Dillon
Verge: Bruno Ganz
Lady 1: Uma Thurman
Lady 2: Siobhan Fallon Hogan
Lady 3: Sofie Gråbøl
Simple: Riley Keough
Al: Jeremy Davies
Sonny: Jack McKenzie
Ed – Police officer 2: Ed Speleers
S.P.: David Bailie
Glenn: Mathias Hjelm
Young Jack: Emil Tholstrup
Female Student: Marijana Jankovic
Grumpy: Rocco Day
George: Cohen Day
Police Officer 4: Robert Jezek
Man 1: Christian Arnold
Man 2: Ji-tae Yu
Man 3: Johannes Kuhnke
Man 4: Jerker Fahlström
Rob: Robert G Slade
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.