The horror movie everyone walked out of. The House That Jack Built – exclusive movie review

I had the pleasure to be selected for an online screener of the latest Lars Von Trier film, The House That Jack Built, by Vancouver International Film Festival 2018, where apparently a lot of fantastic movies premiered.

Since The House That Jack Built didn’t get a wide theatrical release yet – it will happen from November to next February, depending on the country – I’m not going to give anything away for this review, which will be 100% spoiler-free, even more than what I usually try to do.

This is a serial killer film, where Jack (Matt Dillon) throughout the course of 12 years is shown committing brutal crimes and developing his twisted personality. However, The House That Jack Built is a Lars Von Trier film, which means loads of graphic content, disturbing ideas and… pretentious, self-indulgent concepts. The guy – who some of you might remember from the “I agree with Hitler” statement during a press conference – is responsible for movies that made people argue and discuss over the years.

Although I disagree with everything he represents as a person, I can’t deny he has an admirable approach to cinema and a very distinctive style. Nonetheless, I only love one of his movies (Dancer in the Dark, one of the best musical/drama in recent times), like two (Dogville and Melancholia), whereas I kind of hate everything else I’ve seen of his – especially Antichrist and the godawful Nymphomaniac.

I’m glad to say The House That Jack Built is far better than his worst efforts, but I found the fact that this film doesn’t live up to its potential to be rather frustrating.

Continue reading and check my final grade below…


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As for the positives, I adored the casting: the very international cast (with Dillon, Uma Thurman, Bruno Ganz – who I love, Sofie Gråbøl and Ji-tae Yu, among the others) truly elevates the acting in the picture. Matt Dillon brings his A-game here, providing a solid, creepy and emotional performance.

The cinematography, as per usual with Von Trier’s movies, is outstanding, even more so here than in most of his movies, which is quite an achievement.

Yet, the design of the titular house – done by the director himself, as he egotistically reminds us during the end credits – is superb and, given the role of the house within the picture, really adds to the overall experience.

Also, the last 20 minutes of The House That Jack Built is extremely tense and eerie, it becomes interesting to see where the story is going and what’s the meaning of it. Nevertheless, this satisfying grand finale clocks in at 1 hour and 12 minutes, which brings me to my biggest complaint with the film.

The House That Jack Built is too freaking long for the story it tries to tell, with a total runtime of 2 hours and 32 minutes. Yet, the reason why the runtime is so excruciatingly long is that Von Trier decided to show a few clips and scenes over and over again, throughout the film: this doesn’t just become tiresome at one point, but it also felt intentionally annoying.

Plus, at one point, there’s a 5-minute-long montage of clips from the director’s previous films! Are you kidding me?! Why are you so self-centred to think anyone would like to sit through scenes from your other movies intercutting with a main storyline that is actually intriguing? What’s the purpose of that?

In fact, the main storyline keeps being interrupted by the characters speaking about the purpose of art and, since Von Trier’s head is so up high into his butt at this point of the guy’s career, this terrible directorial decision takes the viewer constantly out of the movie. Maybe I’m missing it, but I honestly couldn’t see the connection between the main storyline – which has an interesting meaning onto its own – and these dialogues and montages about cinema and art… I genuinely think the director just wanted to reference as many of his previous films as possible out of narcissism.

Also, don’t let the marketing trick you: articles have been written on how disturbing this film is, to the point people walked out of theatres during some festivals. However, the violence – which is indeed graphic and sometimes also hard to watch – is nothing too special: simply put, the horror community have definitely seen worse in other movies.

All in all, The House That Jack Built had the potential to be one of the best serial killer movies of the last decade, but Von Trier’s narcissism holds it back from being a truly great film. I’d recommend it to the fans of this director and people who don’t mind art-house horror, but even those viewers most likely won’t find it as spectacular as they hope.

The House That Jack Built              6/10

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