Lars von Trier has always had the guts to make a film both psychologically and artistically disturbing. I felt “Nymphomaniac Vol. 1” and “Nymphomaniac Vol. 2” (both released in 2013) already went overboard with consistent scenes of graphic content and haunting elements that left audience members in shock. “The House that Jack Built” also leaves audience members to feel that way, but more in terms of the main character’s structure, his violent background, and his rituals of being a killer. This is definitely a much heavier role for Matt Dillon. Even though he has starred in many serious films around heavy subjects ranging from “Wild Things (1998), “Deuces Wild” (2002), and “Crash” (2004), “The House that Jack Built” is one where he is not the Matt Dillon we know. Dillon has the shady looks that definitely makes him look to be a serial killer in this mind-boggling, horrific horror flick.
The film takes place in the 1970s and follows our main character Jack (Dillon) through a time frame of twelve years and there is a structure to how Jack builds up over time being a serial killer. In the murder scenarios, he treats them all as in they are his art and that, he is developing something artistic for himself. The more killings he does, the authorities get closer to him. Given it is the 1970s, the benefit that Jack has over the police is that they do not have the advance resources to solve he is the murder quickly, where as now most crimes are solved faster than people expect. The does not stop Jack from being obsessed with killing people, because he feels the deeper he goes with this very bad element of himself, the more he feels he is going to create an ultimate form of art with his killings. The different murder scenarios get even more gruesome as the film continues.
There is a moment where Uma Thurman is in the film, but she is not the violent actress as we remember from Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” (2003). She is one of Jack’s victims and she starts to feel not safe with Jack based on his negative attitude, him being opinionated, and very self-absorbed to a concerning extent. I did like seeing Thurman playing someone who is afraid for a change, and that is because in a majority of her films she is quite vicious (especially in “Kill Bill”). For many of her roles when it comes to violence and suspense, Thurman is the one who is all for doing the dirty work. In “The House that Jack Built” the only one doing the “dirty work” is Dillon, so do not expect Thurman to be the one fighting for revenge.
“The House that Jack Built” is poetic in the same sense as “Nymphomaniac Vol.” and “Nymphomaniac Vol. 2.” Lars von Trier has the same aspect as he does with these two films in “The House that Jack Built” and that is the film being told and shown more through our main character’s inner mind. However, as the story is being told (there are some narrations), that is when the grotesque fragments of Jack’s murder scenarios do happen. The director is not afraid to push the elements of what can scare his viewers. There is also allusions that are historical that he adds and this is what also makes “The House that Jack Built” a movie that will grasp viewers attention.
I found the film to be slightly like the showtime series “Dexter” (2006-2013). Dexter though only targeted murders to kill, Jack targets anyone he finds to be an easy kill or that is vulnerable. Jack also does not play nice guy during the day, he intentionally shows his negative sides to people, Dexter plays very nice guy during the day, but at night time he is the killer that is talked about but is good at hiding that he is the killer. From this, I mean that many films now gearing on the subject of serial killers have the killers have a target of the type of people they go after. Jack goes after everyone practically. As soon as viewers realize he comes to a new conversation with someone in the movie, they quickly wonder if that person is the next victim to be the unlucky one to suffer.
In terms of cinematic factors, I felt the lighting was set to a tone where it was faded in the moments of violence. That would create Jack’s world to make his viewers feel they are deeply in his mind and his inner world. Overall, it is a treat that will definitely be one to not to be missed. “The House that Jack Built” has all of the elements of a perfect horror movie, and one that is actually good and not made for Hollywood. The artistic value of Lars Von Trier will grasp viewers to want to follow Jack into the underworld of his art and his obsessions that are dark and haunting. Four stars.