The House That Jack Built

Shortly after provocative Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier unveiled the chilling trailer for his latest film, The House That Jack Built, the movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, leaving us with plenty of first impressions.

The early reviews are mixed, with some critics struggling to separate the artist from his work. While others agree that the film is horrifyingly brilliant, The Hollywood Reporters David Rooney suggested that Von Trier’s overtures to himself distract from his work: “The frequently brilliant Von Trier is so intent here on proclaiming his own genius at great length in one of his least forceful films.”

Such was the mixed nature of the response to the movie that a large number of those in attendance at the premiere in Cannes walked out on the film. Reports suggest the movie opened to “more than 100 walkouts and simultaneous groans.” Variety reports that the balcony of the theater was half empty by the time The House That Jack Built finished, although it did end up receiving a prolonged standing ovation.

As for the actual plot, The House That Jack Built stars Matt Dillon as the eponymous serial killer Jack, and follows the five killings that shape his life, blending horror and humor in true Von Trier style.

Dillon and Uma Thurman are joined by Bruno Ganz, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Riley Keough, Sofie Gråbøl, and Jeremy Davies in the film, which is slated for European release this fall.

Watch the trailer below and then read on for the critical reception.

The bad

“Do anything — it really doesn’t matter what — rather than go and see Lars von Trier’s ‘The House That Jack Built.’ Lars von Trier’s ‘The House That Jack Built’ is repulsive, toxic, trash.”

Jessica Kiang / The Playlist

‘The House That Jack Built’… is 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.

Robbie Collin / The Telegraph

The meh

“Don’t get me wrong — ‘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.”

David Rooney / The Hollywood Reporter

“The film lopes along in a way that’s grimly absorbing yet, at the same time, falls short of fully immersive. And that’s not just because a lot of it doesn’t track along the spectrum of reality-based storytelling.

It’s not just a prestige sadomasochistic exploitation film, like Von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’ or parts of ‘Nymphomaniac: Vol. I and II.’ But it’s a drama that leaves you shaken yet detached, chilled and a little numb. Almost every scene in it has been overly designed to grab your attention.”

Owen Gleiberman / Variety

“It is an ordeal of gruesomeness and tiresomeness that was every bit as exasperating as I had feared. But it concludes with what I also have to concede is a spectacular horror finale that detonated an almighty épat here in Cannes.”

Peter Bradshaw / The Guardian

The good

“The film is a dark and grisly serial-killer comedy — but, more relevantly, it’s a dark and grisly serial-killer comedy written and directed by Lars von Trier. That means it’s overlong, overblown, sometimes boring, sometimes shocking, but undoubtedly a bold and stimulating film which no one but Denmark’s notorious provocateur-auteur could have made.”

Nicholas Barber / BBC

The great

‘The House That Jack Built’ is an often-horrifying, sadistic dive into a psychotic internal monologue, with intellectual detours about the nature of art in the world today, and puts considerable effort into stimulating discomfort at key moments. If you meet the work on those terms, or at least accept the challenge of wrestling with impeccable filmmaking that dances across moral barriers, it’s also possibly brilliant.

Eric Kohn / IndieWire

After reading the above reviews, will you be going to see Von Trier’s movie? Let us know in the comments.

In other news, Marvel is apparently working on a Muslim female superhero movie. Read more on that here.

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