The House that Jack Built

It’s been two months and I’m fucking back. I revamped my website for the new year. This is all sorts of good for my soul. I was working for an institution that sucked everything out of me and I lost any and all inspiration to write. I cried almost every single day instead – and mostly tried to convince my boyfriend to get me a cat for Christmas. I digress – my energies were elsewhere, but I’m out of there and I feel alive again – so let’s talk about horror!

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this movie that I can’t get off my mind – can we talk about how Matt Dillon ages like fine wine? Handsome as hell. Also, SPOILERS FULL STEAM AHEAD.

There’s been a lot of buzz around Lars von Trier’s new body of work – aha, get it? (Thanks for that joke, Mitch) – so as soon as it was available to rent, I told my boyfriend we were having a movie night and we sat on our couch and watched Jack descend into madness –we both heartily laughed during certain scenes – and in one specifically, I cringed and closed my eyes (Hi, Simple).

The movie ended and we both turned to each other and asked, “When’s the last time you read Dante’s Inferno?”

This is how I saw the story of Jack unfold: There are 9 circles of hell – Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Avarice and Prodigality, Wrath and Sullenness, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery. With each “incident” or “episode” in The House that Jack Built, he cumulatively kills 9 people including himself, and in each death, you can find a characteristic of one of the circles above. This is no coincidence – Jack’s journey was a descent from circle to circle until he met his imminent death.

von Trier has allegedly stated that this movie is the closest thing to himself. I don’t think that declaration is as pretentious as everyone is making it out to be – it takes guts to admit that you identify with the character traits of a serial killer, and he obviously knows that some believe he’s “evil” (that’s so fucking stupid), but again, a statement like that has a lot of personal reflection behind it.

If I sit and think about it, I probably share as many traits with “evil” people as well, but I know at my core that I’m not evil – I’m not even immoral – so in a way, I understand von Trier. If someone labeled me a vile misogynist, I would also kill more women in more movies in even worse ways because fuck what people think. Hesitation is a person’s greatest enemy. You already think he’s a pretentious asshole aiming for shock value and shock value only, so why should he strive to prove you wrong? Loyalty lies within us – ourselves – not anyone else. He doesn’t have to cater to us and I really respect that.

I haven’t seen any other of his movies so I can’t vouch for those artistic expressions, but can you imagine not indulging your ego? Can you imagine changing your work because other people don’t like that you like yourself, and celebrate your own work that you’ve busted your ass to create? I don’t care how vile or how fucked up his character’s ideologies are. They’re works of fiction – it doesn’t mean von Trier himself believes in these things. I read books written by authors who violently kill their characters all the time, I don’t think they’re at home collecting bodies in their basement or believe in the thoughts and actions of the killers they create.

It means that he, as a director, can understand from a historical viewpoint, that people have believed in very sinister practices and actions – you know, like the fucking Holocaust. Why not unpack that? Why not have a serial killer who only empathizes with Hitler, animals who eat others, and technological innovations meant to harm and maim – hunting mechanisms and techniques, like who to shoot first with your hunting rifle, and a full metal jacket bullet and its capability. We’re humans – we all know these things exist so why do we get so angry when it’s presented to us? We fucking created it. We built it. Do you know how many houses sit atop dead man, woman and child’s bones?

In my own horror-fan opinion, all of the thematic elements used in this movie were purposeful. This movie brought me back to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Angst, Natural Born Killers, and The Snowtown Murders. It was reminiscent of real-life killers like Ted Bundy (Hello, Mr. Sophistication) and Jeffrey Dahmer (Hello, wallet stitched out of skin) – people overcome and consumed with the need to destroy first and show off their work – or self-referential art – later.

Here’s a few controversial statements: I will watch the director’s cut when it’s available. I’m officially a Lars von Trier fan. This movie definitely earns a spot in my top 10 of 2018.

You can rent the R-rated version on ITunes and other streaming platforms now. Go! Run! Watch!

Bye everyone – Happy Holidays! I hope Krampus is good to you all.


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