‘The House That Jack Built’ Trailer Tortures Its Audience

Matt Dillon is a tiger stalking lambs in Lars Von Trier’s latest descent into madness.
The House That Jack Built Gun
By  · Published on May 14th, 2018

Matt Dillon is a tiger stalking lambs in Lars von Trier’s latest descent into madness.

The Danish provocateur Lars von Trier has returned to the Cannes Film Festival after suffering banishment for his 2011 comments sympathizing with Adolf Hitler. While The House That Jack Built will not partake in the festival competition, the director’s persona non grata status has been revoked and the film will be allowed to screen. Just hours before its premiere, IFC Films has unleashed the official trailer.

We might not be ready for this one, folks.

Woof. That’s rough. Not to say I was expecting a delightful romp through the countryside, but applying von Trier’s aesthetic to the serial killer saga might just be my psychological undoing. Anyone have a Xanax?

Pop culture wise, serial killers are like zombies. Just when you think you’ve experienced all there is to be said on the matter, along comes Mindhunter or the Criminology podcast to reinvent your preconceived notions. Based on this trailer, von Trier will certainly drag us into the muck of atrocity, but does he have something to say beyond cheap inserts of National Geographic tigers stalking cartoon lambs?

The House That Jack Built will track Matt Dillon‘s psychotic through the 1970s. We are to witness each murder as its shapes his psychology and philosophy. For Jack, each killing is an expression of his artistic drive and a statement of purpose. While he slaughters his way through actresses such as Uma Thurman and Riley Keough, Dillon chronicles his adventures to a seemingly like-minded Bruno Ganz.

Given the amount of wincing this trailer induced, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to watch the entire film through the cage of my fingers. Personally, I’ve always struggled with Lars von Trier’s films. Breaking the Waves is a traumatic romance that tested my ability to sit still in a theater. Antichrist laughed at my unease, drew me in with its grotesque beauty, and reduced my soul to a puddle. I’m still not sure how I feel about the horrors experienced in Nymphomaniac; I just know that I never want to visit that world again.

And yet…

I still keep coming back for punishment. As Ganz explains the rules of the game to Dillon, “Very few make it all the way without uttering a word.” He might as well be talking directly to the audience. Lars von Trier’s films demand conversation. With each release, Film Twitter is set ablaze, and I dare not dismiss myself from the debate surrounding the director. I don’t want to be left out. Few other filmmakers have such a hold.

We’re all Uma Thurman stepping into Matt Dillon’s car. Our journey with The House That Jack Built might be a mistake. Don’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes the guy who looks like a serial killer is a serial killer. Shame on us for falling prey to the filmmaker that savages us time and time again. If we purchase a ticket to this film, we deserve all the resulting squirmy feelings of disgust.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)