This is a review of the unrated “director’s cut” version. Love him or hate him, Lars von Trier’s latest is a venture into psychological horror and displays a dark sense of humor. Lacks the emotion of 2013’s Nymphomaniac, a film it has a few things in common with, in terms of shocks and the lead in a lengthy dialogue with another character. Takes you inside the mind of psychopathic serial killer Jack, played by Matt Dillon in his best role in years.
The story is entertaining but uncomfortable and one of the most disturbing scenes to me could be when the blonde talks to the cop. With these type of violent films, I hope there are no maniacs who are inspired to copy the images on screen although what we see could also be viewed as a deterrent. It’s possible the film is a response to the controversial Melancholia press conference at Cannes in 2011, by reinforcing that Lars von Trier is interested in when art clashes with evil, and that he has a pitch-black, easily misunderstood wit, which is not for everyone. For example the hilarious OCD cleaning or Uma Thurman’s “you look like a serial killer” conversation with Jack in the van. This is really a horror comedy even if it really shouldn’t be a laughing matter. I’ll get back to that.
Serial killers (like filmmakers) display their creativity through their acts, and the film has unforgettable visuals. Is this a masterpiece by Lars von Trier or a pretentious, self-indulgent ego trip? Hard to say and I haven’t really decided how I feel about it. Important to discuss murder in society through art, and I wouldn’t want the director to censor his vision, although I felt he went too far in some sequences. Just because you have the power to put things on film doesn’t mean you should. In a similar vein to Haneke’s Funny Games, The House That Jack Built addresses the audiences enjoyment with horror. Encouraging laughs and thereby reminding us we are uncomfortably “enjoying” the events. I guess you could argue humor can be located in everything and I feel Lars von Trier is manipulating with the audience. The contradiction of spending time with a despicable character you would never want to meet in real life. That is what movies can do, take you to a place that is completely different to your own experience. So as to try and understand the thinking of even the most evil minds.
But is the film saying anything new? Certain elements did feel familiar to other films in the genre such as American Psycho, though I will say there’s certainly a discussion about art and evil which appears to fascinate von Trier, and the film will undoubtedly be analysed in every way moving forward. Complaining that the film is cold and sadistic I think is missing the point because it’s designed that way. I wouldn’t recommend to all, but if you appreciate his prior films you’ll be wanting to watch. Divisive, daring cinema, as you’d expect from the Danish auteur. As with the director’s other horror Antichrist (2009), excluding viewers with its unpleasantness.
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome