The House That Jack Built (2018 film)

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The House That Jack Built
The House That Jack Built.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLars von Trier
Produced byLouise Vesth
Screenplay byLars von Trier
Story by
  • Jenle Hallund
  • Lars von Trier
Music byVíctor Reyes
CinematographyManuel Alberto Claro
Edited by
  • Molly Malene Stensgaard
  • Jacob Secher Schulsinger
Distributed by
  • TrustNordisk
  • IFC Films
    (North America)
Release date
  • 14 May 2018 (2018-05-14) (Cannes)
  • 28 November 2018 (2018-11-28) (United States)
  • 29 November 2018 (2018-11-29) (Denmark)
Running time
155 minutes[1]
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Sweden
Budget8.7 million[2]
(~$9.9 million)
Box office$2.6 million[3]

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.[4] The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, marking von Trier's return to the festival after more than six years. It was given a single-day theatrical release on 28 November 2018 in the United States, and polarized critics.[5]


Narrative acts
1. 1st Incident
2. 2nd Incident
3. 3rd Incident
4. 4th Incident
5. 5th Incident
    Epilogue: Katabasis

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 through 5 "Incidents". Throughout the film he has side conversations with Verge in between the depictions of the incidents, most of which revolve around discussion of philosophy, ethics or Jack's view of the world.

Jack is driving down a road when he encounters a woman who needs to fix her broken jack for her car. He agrees to take her to a local Blacksmith, Sonny. Sonny fixes the tire jack, but when they both return to try and fix the car once again, the tire jack breaks yet again. The woman asks to be brought back once again. Jack takes the tire jack and kills her with it. He then takes her body to an industrial freezer he had purchased to store it away.

Jack knocks on the door of another woman and claims that he can help her with her dead husband's pension. The woman invites him in and he stabs her through her heart. His obsessions with trying to clean up every surface in the house nearly leads to his undoing as a suspicious cop comes by. He then ties the woman's body to the back of the car and drags her body all the way to the industrial freezer. Around this time, Jack ends up giving himself the serial killer moniker "Mr. Sophistication."

Jack takes a woman he is dating and her two sons, Grumpy and George, out for a hunting lesson. Shortly after, he kills both sons using a sniper rifle at a distance and forces the woman to feed pie to George. He eventually ends up killing the woman, then re-arranges Grumpy's face into a grotesque smile.

Jack meets Jacqueline, a woman that he calls "Simple", as he believes her to be stupid. Jack confesses he has killed sixty people at this point and is the serial killer "Mr. Sophistication," but Jacqueline does not believe him. After he proceeds marking red circles around her breasts with a marker, she tries to get away and tell a cop, but he dismisses her as a drunk. Eventually, Jacqueline fails to escape and Jack cuts off her breasts with a knife and murders her. He pins one of the breasts to the police car and fashions the other one into a wallet.

Jack has detained five people and tied them to a makeshift post, lining their heads up in a row with the intention of killing them all with one bullet, but realizes that the bullet is not a full metal jacket bullet. He kills a man known as S.P. and a cop, then grabs the one bullet he needs and steals the police car, which he leaves outside his freezer space with the siren blazing. After arriving, for the first time he manages to open the door behind the freezer and sees Verge. Verge suggests that Jack has unfinished business and has never really built the house that he was intending to build. Using the bodies as material, Jack constructs a house out of them and when he enters the makeshift house, he sees a hole that leads down. At this point, the cops successfully torch through the door, and Jack decides to go through the hole, following Verge.

In an allusion to Dante's Inferno, Verge is actually the poet Virgil and is guiding Jack through Hell. At the very bottom of Hell there is a bridge and a vast dark space below. The door on the other side of the bridge leads out of Hell and presumably to Heaven as Verge tells Jack. The bridge is completely broken, but Jack notices that one could climb around the cliff and over to the other side, although Verge tells him that he recommends against it and that this is not where he is to deliver him. Jack ignores him and tries to climb over but falls down into the fiery abyss.



Von Trier originally developed the idea as a television series, but in February 2016, he announced that it would be a film.[10] After extensively researching serial killers, von Trier had a completed script by May 2016.[11] International sales rights for the film belong to TrustNordisk with von Trier's Zentropa producing.[10] Film i Väst partly financed the film, and the Copenhagen Film Fund provided €1.08 million in production subsidies.[10][12] The film is a co-production between France, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark.[10]

On 2 November 2016, von Trier announced that Matt Dillon would play the film's lead role.[13] Announcements soon followed in February 2017 that Riley Keough and Sofie Gråbøl would also be joining the production[12] with Uma Thurman's participation being announced the following month.[14] The same month, von Trier described the film as celebrating "the idea that life is evil and soulless".[15] Filming began in March 2017 outside Bengtsfors in Dalsland, Sweden[16][2] and was shot in Copenhagen, Gribskov, Trollhättan, Peak District and Montemerano.[10][11] Von Trier split the filming into two parts to allow the opportunity for editing in between, something he has never done before.[11] The film spent nearly a year in post-production, which included complicated special effects.[17][18][19]


In May 2017, IFC Films acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film.[20] As of March 2017, von Trier was negotiating to have the film premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, despite his being previously banned from the festival.[18] On 19 April 2018, the film was selected to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival out of competition.[21] After the announcement, a teaser trailer was released.[22]

The film had its world premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival on 14 May 2018.[23] It was reported that more than a hundred audience members walked out during the premiere, though a ten-minute standing ovation followed the screening.[23][24][25][26]

In October 2018, it was reported that the director's cut, which is the uncensored version that played at Cannes, would play in US theaters for one night in November, followed by an edited R-rated version release in selected theaters and on digital platforms beginning December 14.[27] Immediately following the unrated director's cut screenings, the MPAA issued a statement condemning the screening for not adhering to the ratings board's guidelines for unrated showings.[28] After threatening IFC Films with sanctions, the MPAA resolved the dispute by pushing the digital release of the director's cut back to 2019, as opposed to coinciding with the December 14 theatrical release of the R-rated cut.[29] On 6 December 2018, the director's cut was released to purchase on YouTube for several hours.[30]


Box office[edit]

The House That Jack Built has grossed $259,017 in the United States,[31] and $2,328,216 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $2,587,233.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 57% based on 120 reviews, and an average rating of 5.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The House That Jack Built presents writer-director Lars von Trier at his most proudly uncompromising: hard to ignore, and for many viewers, just as difficult to digest."[32] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 42 out of 100 based on 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[33]

IndieWire critic Eric Kohn gave the film an "A-" and called the film a "wild masterpiece."[34]'s Nicolas Barber gave the film four stars out of five and said "Undoubtedly a bold and stimulating film which no one but Denmark's notorious provocateur-auteur could have made."[35] Owen Gleiberman from Variety gave the film a positive review, and stated "It's halfway between a subversive good movie and a stunt. It's designed to get under your skin, and does."[36] David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wrote "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."[37] Armond White says the film satirizes "guilt-free violence" by "rubbing the audience’s face in the ugliness it enjoys."[38] The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw referred to the film as "an ordeal of gruesomeness and tiresomeness", though he did praise its closing scene.[39]

Despite audience backlash toward a scene involving the main character's mutilation of a duckling when he was a child, PETA has defended the film in a statement praising its accurate portrayal of the link between adolescent animal abuse and psychopathy and for the realistic special effects.[40]


The film was nominated for Art Cinema Award and Hamburg Producers Award at the 26th Hamburg Film Festival.[41] It won two awards in Canary Islands Fantastic Film Festival – Best Actor for Dillon and Best Screenplay for von Trier.[42] At the Robert Awards, the film received 11 nominations: Best Danish Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Editing, Best Sound Design and Best Visual Effects. It won two awards, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.[43][44] Dillon also received a Best Actor nomination at the Bodil Awards.[45]

Cahiers du cinéma selected The House That Jack Built as one of the best films of 2018.[46]


  1. ^ "The 2018 Official Selection". Cannes. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b Christian Monggaard (8 March 2017). "Lars von Trier talks Uma Thurman, serial killers and Cannes at first press conference since Nazi row". Screen Daily. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b "The House That Jack Built (2018) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  4. ^ Olsen, Mark (13 December 2018). "Review: Lars von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built' is mostly empty". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ "Polarizing 'The House That Jack Built' Reviews Suggest It's This Year's Most Extreme and Controversial Horror Movie!". Bloody Disgusting. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  6. ^ Garth Franklin (29 April 2018). "New "Deadpool 2," "House That Jack" Photos". Dark Horizons. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  7. ^ Sonia Kil (25 April 2017). "Korea's Yu Ji-tae Joins Lars von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built'". Variety. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  8. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (26 April 2017). "South Korean Actor Yu Ji-tae Joins Lars Von Trier's 'House That Jack Built'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  9. ^ Franco Bianchini (2 January 2018). "Cinema, i dieci film attesi nelle nostre sale tra curiosità, polemiche e… Ruby" (in Italian). Secolo d'Italia. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e Elsa Keslassy (11 May 2016). "Lars Von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built': New Details Emerge". Variety. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  11. ^ a b c Wendy Mitchell (17 May 2016). "Lars Von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built' cuts early deals". Screen Daily. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  12. ^ a b Scott Roxborough (11 February 2017). "Berlin: Lars von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built' Adds Riley Keough, Sofie Gråbøl (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  13. ^ Mike Fleming Jr (2 November 2016). "Lars Von Trier Sets Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz For 'The House That Jack Built'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  14. ^ Elsa Keslassy (7 March 2017). "Uma Thurman Joins Cast of Lars von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built'". Variety. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  15. ^ Catherine Shoard (14 February 2017). "Lars von Trier inspired by Donald Trump for new serial-killer film". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  16. ^ Zach Sharf (8 March 2017). "Lars von Trier Wants You to Know 'The House That Jack Built' Will Be His Most Brutal Film Ever". IndieWire. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  17. ^ "Cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro, DFF, discusses Lars Von Trier's "The House That Jack Built"". AFCinema. 17 May 2018. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  18. ^ a b Gilbey, Ryan (9 March 2017). "Lars von Trier negotiating for Cannes return after 2011 Nazi comments ban". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  19. ^ BBC News (2018-05-15). "Lars von Trier's 'Gross' and 'Torturous' Film Prompts Walkout." Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  20. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (25 May 2017). "Lars Von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built' Picked Up By IFC Films – Cannes". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  21. ^ Elsa Keslassy (19 April 2018). "Cannes Adds Lars von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built,' Sets Terry Gilliam's 'Don Quixote' as Closer". Variety. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  22. ^ Miska, Brad (19 April 2018). "Lars von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built' to Premiere at Cannes [Teaser]". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  23. ^ a b Ritman, Alex (14 May 2018). "Cannes: Lars Von Trier's "Disgusting," "Torturous" Film Sparks Walkouts". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  24. ^ Mumford, Gwilym (15 May 2018). "'Vomitive. Pathetic': Lars Von Trier film prompts mass walkouts at Cannes". the Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  25. ^ Marotta, Jenna (14 May 2018). "'The House That Jack Built' First Reactions: 'Lars Has Gone Too Far This Time' As 100 People Walk Out — Cannes".
  26. ^ "Lars Von Trier film shocks and offends at Cannes as 100 walk out". Film Industry Network. 15 May 2018.
  27. ^ Sharf, Zack (31 October 2018). "'The House That Jack Built': Lars von Trier Director's Cut to Play One Night Only in Theaters, R-Rated Edit Opens in December". IndieWire. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  28. ^ Pedersen, Erik (30 November 2018). "'The House That Jack Built': MPAA Says Unrated Screenings Of Lars von Trier's Gorefest Break CARA Rules; IFC Films Disagrees – Update". Deadline. Deadline. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  29. ^ Adams, Sam (5 December 2018). "Director's Cut of Lars von Trier's Serial-Killer Drama The House That Jack Built Delayed After Ratings Board Controversy". Slate. Slate. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  30. ^ "The Director's Cut of 'The House That Jack Built' Popped Up for Purchase on YouTube… and Then Vanished". Bloody Disgusting. 7 December 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
  31. ^ "Lars Von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built' Scores $172,000 in One Night – More Than Half of Total 'Nymphomaniac' Gross". The Wrap. 29 November 2018. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  32. ^ "The House That Jack Built (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  33. ^ "The House That Jack Built reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  34. ^ Kohn, Eric (2018-05-15). "‘The House That Jack Built’ Review: Lars von Trier’s Serial Killer Epic Is Horrifying, Sadistic, Possibly Brilliant — Cannes 2018." Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  35. ^ Barber, Nicolas (2018-05-15). Film Review: The House That Jack Built." Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  36. ^ Glieberman, Owen (2018-05-15). "Cannes Film Review: Lars von Trier’s ‘The House That Jack Built.’" Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  37. ^ Rooney, David (2018-05-14). "'The House That Jack Built': Film Review | Cannes 2018." Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  38. ^ White, Armond (2018-12-18). "The House That Jack Built Takes on the Apocalypse"
  39. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (15 May 2018). "The House That Jack Built review – Lars Von Trier serves up a smirking ordeal of gruesomeness". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  40. ^ Sharf, Zack (17 May 2018). "PETA Defends Lars von Trier's 'The House That Jack Built' Against Backlash Over Graphic Animal Mutilation Scene". IndieWire. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  41. ^ "Filmfest Hamburg 2018 | The House That Jack Built". (in German). Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  42. ^ "Palmarés de la II Edición del Festival de Cine Fantástico de Canarias – Isla Calavera 2018". (in Spanish). Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ "Cahiers du Cinéma Best 2018 Films: 'The House That Jack Built,' 'Phantom Thread'". IndieWire. 3 December 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2018.

External links[edit]