The House That Jack Built

Cannes Palme d'Or winner Lars von Trier's psychological horror follows the development of a highly intelligent serial killer (Matt Dillon) over the course of 12 years.

We experience the story from Jack's point of view, while he postulates each murder is an artwork in itself. As the inevitable police intervention is drawing nearer, he is taking greater and greater risks in his attempt to create the ultimate artwork.


Directed by

  • Lars von Trier('Dancer in the Dark', 'Breaking the Waves', 'Dogville')

Written by



Rating: R18 Graphic violence, sadistic cruelty and sexual violence

Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden


Aaron Yap


Haters gonna hate, and von Trier gonna von Trier as hard as he can. That should give you some gauge as to whether you should bail from The House That Jack Built right now. For this smugly self-aware, nonetheless arrestingly idiosyncratic, magnum-opus-wannabe finds the controversy-baiting poster boy of auteurist arthouse navel-gazing venturing further down the path of no return as his widening circle of detractors cry, not without good reason, “Don’t feed the troll!”.

Despite its numerous unpleasantries, occasionally conjuring echoes of Hannibal’s ornate grisliness, The House That Jack Built is not to be mistaken for a “serial killer movie”. I’ll be the first to admit that Matt Dillon is remarkably effective as a Dahmer/Bundy-type lunatic dubbed “Mr. Sophistication”. And for those who can adjust their taste bearings to accommodate, this is definitely von Trier’s most perversely funny movie in a long while. But it’s impossible to watch all of this detached from the warped lens of how von Trier sees himself, and how he thinks the world sees him.

Part maddening apologia, part droning art/history lecture, the film is prone to philosophical longueurs, often guided by Dillion’s off-screen dialogue with an unseen man named Verge (Bruno Ganz). In between indefensible bouts of cruelty, there’s much waffling on about the freedoms of artistic creation, the value of icons, the differences between an engineer and an architect and so forth.

In other words, the same sadistic twaddle we’ve come to love and hate from the man? Perhaps so. But it’s also the most purposefully diabolical act of self-reckoning von Trier’s ever committed to. The House That Jack Built is like Buffalo Bill wearing the transcendental skin of Tarkovsky, staring into an infernal chasm of his own making.

Hollywood Reporter


The House That Jack Built is definitely something to see. But what's most surprising is that it's just as often inane as unsettling.

The Guardian (UK)


An ordeal of gruesomeness and tiresomeness that was every bit as exasperating as I had feared.

The Telegraph (UK)


Two and a half hours of self-reflexive torture porn with an entire McDonald's warehouse of chips on its shoulder, and a handful of genuinely provocative ideas which, exasperatingly, go nowhere much.

Variety (USA)


It's halfway between a subversive good movie and a stunt. It's designed to get under your skin, and does.

FilmInk (Australia)


It can happily sit among the ranks of extreme cinema like Cannibal Holocaust, Salo and A Serbian Film as movies very few people will be able to sit all the way through, much less enjoy.

TimeOut (London)


An empty provocation, The House That Jack Built aims for profundity but achieves only mild queasiness.

Sydney Morning Herald


If this shrill, manipulative, sledge-hammer allegory is right for our times, give me Dante any day. Von Trier has certainly done better, but never worse. (James Croot)


This felt something like I endured, rather than enjoyed.



Dante's art house

This horror was the perfect way to spend a bleak/depressed Tuesday afternoon alone in a theatre with 2 other people.

Educational in places too. Brilliantly done and some ace sound design ...turns out I was right in thinking some of the drumming sounded like Lars Ulrich.

Heaven and Hell. The Tiger And The Lamb

The only real way to see how people view the world is through their art. So director Lars Von Trier is equally as terrifying as he is intriguing.