KFF film review: The House That Jack Built

Lars Von Trier did something in The House That Jack Built: Von Trier proved that a film can both be horrifying, while still incredibly captivating. The House That Jack Built follows Jack, with Matt Dillon (previously starring in both The Outsiders and Herbie Fully Loaded) acting his heart out as a twisted serial killer with a degree of what he considers “artistic” prowess. The story of Jack’s career in experimental art is told in five chapters, or “incidents,” each being bloodier and more gruesome than the last, yet it’s hard to be disgusted because of the dedication Jack pours into his acts.

What makes this film so compelling is how Jack seems to be asking to be caught. At multiple moments, he waves to or smiles at people who might end up as witnesses to his crimes. He leaves a stolen police cruiser with sirens blaring outside a building he has his next art piece set up in. Jack even tells some of his victims what he’s going to do to them, yet each future-victim or passerby does not seem to care.

Jack also seems to represent the director himself. At times, Jack wanders through the carefully arranged tableaus of his victims’ bodies much like a movie director evaluates scenes of his own films. Simply put, The House That Jack Built is a love letter to all things great about horror films and film itself.