Horror Movie Review: The House That Jack Built (2018)

“The old cathedrals often have sublime artworks hidden away in the darkest corners for only God to see. The same goes for murder.”

The House That Jack Built is a 2018 psychological horror art film written and directed by Lars von Trier, starring Matt Dillon in the title role of Jack. The story follows Jack, a serial killer, over the course of 12 years in the 1970s and 1980s in the U.S. state of Washington.

The story follows Jack, a serial killer with some artistic disposition, over the course of twelve years and depicts the murders that develop Jack as a serial killer. Throughout the film he has side conversations with Verge in between the depictions of the incidents, most of these revolve around discussion of philosophy, ethics or Jack’s view of the world.

In five audacious episodes, failed architect and sociopath Jack (Matt Dillon) recounts the elaborately orchestrated murders—each, as he views them, a towering work of art—that define his “career” as a serial killer.

The chapters range from the disturbing to the extremely disturbing as Jack becomes more and more brazen with his murders. The stories span from a woman with car trouble, a mother and her 2 sons who go hunting with him and his very own abused girlfriend, who believes him to be physically impaired and therefore harmless.

Each chapter is told from his perspective and the victims come across as “asking for it”. He portrays the women he murders as extremely stupid and each way he gets away with murder becomes more and more ridiculous. This is where the black humour comes in as you can’t help but root for Jack to get away with his heinous crimes, despite him being a reprehensible bastard, so you get to see what he does next.

The House That Jack Built is a very intelligently crafted film and not for the faint of heart for sure. It’s a true real life horror filmed as if it was a keyhole documentary. Matt Dillon is incredible and very convincing. In fact the whole cast are great. On top of that, the effects are mind-blowing and extremely realistic.

I thoroughly enjoyed the morality debates between Verge and Jack and the historical stories presented throughout. To have a glimpse inside a serial killers mind is truly fascinating and you begin to see some semblance of rationality within the madness. If you have any interest in serial killers then this is the ultimate film to watch.

I can however understand why this film wouldn’t appeal to the masses. It is an arty indie film so it can be a little pretentious and preachy in places. But that’s the director’s style so I fully expected that. If you don’t enjoy long periods of dialogue then this isn’t for you, as it does drag in places.

The subject matter of The House That Jack Built is all about being an artist, and Lars Von Trier truly is an artist. This movie is a work of art and I hope he has more scripts like this in the works. I’d probably check his freezer though, as his character Jack is a bit too realistic.


  • Sally Powell

    Editor/Writer - Stay at home mum educating the horror minds of tomorrow. If it's got vampires or Nicolas Cage in it, I'm sold. Found cleaning bums or kicking ass in an RPG. (And occasionally here reviewing all things horror and gaming related!)

The House That Jack Built
  • The Final Score - 9/10
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