Nov 29, 2018

The House That Jack Built (Director's Cut) - Noggin Review

Hey I'm actually reviewing a movie that has just come out in theaters.  Hell the R-rated theater version isn't even out.  I'm like a real movie critic!  

I was at first, indifferent about this movie.  I’m not a big follower of film makers or get excited in particular if someone like the Cohen Brothers come out with a new movie.  I’m also not a real big fan of hardcore gore films.  They intrigue me, and if I see them I watch them like I’d watch a magician, constantly wondering how the trick was created.  How did they make it look so convincing?…or not.  So when I’d heard Lars Von Trier was doing this one-night-only directors cut of a new film I could really not care any less.  But some friends of mine decided it was an event to experience and we got tickets.  I also hadn’t seen any of the trailers or read any of the lead up marketing up until the day-of and was seeing words like “people walked out” “disgusted”  “serial killer”  and “gorefest”and became curiously concerned about what I had gotten myself into. So expecting the worst I went in open minded and prepared myself to see some horrible shit.  

* * * * * * *Spoilers Ahoy!* * * * * * *

The movie as you may have already read chronicles a series of randomly selected “incidents” or killings from his long catalogue of murders, as told by Jack (Matt Dillon) in the dark to an unseen voice, Virgil,  his guide to what one at this point can only assume to be Hell.   The movie weaves in and out of  his memory of these incidents and Jack and Virgil’s back-and-forths narrating with relevant depictions of art, scenes from wildlife films and cartoon clips.  

One trait that’s unique about Jack that’s apparent early in the film is that he has OCD. In one of the killings we get to see Jack keep having to go back and make sure he cleaned up. Even to the point of almost getting caught.  It’s pretty comical. Comedy is pretty constant throughout this movie despite it’s subject matter.  But what isn’t as prevalent as I’d thought was graphic depictions of gore.  There was no real hardcore scary nightmare fuel like I had expected.  It was pretty run-of-the-mill gory horror if you ask me.   There was one scene in particular (blacked out below) which the MPAA probably had the biggest issue with.  This is probably where people in Cannes turned on Von Trier and walked out.  But it’s not gory at all.  It’s just… really fucked up.  But Jack has issues.  As we learn through his conversation with Virgil.  

Extra spoilery:(highlight text to read)  He takes a mom and her two young boys whom he’s befriended on an outing to a hunting tower to teach the boys how to shoot targets. He then is shooting the boys from a hunting tower as if they were a family of deer.  With some pretty graphic rifle blasts.  He sets up the kids at a picnic with the mom who’s still alive and makes her feed her dead son pie.  Then gives her a running start then shoots her from the tower.  He later does some DIY taxidermy on one of the boys to make him look happy.  It’s kinda gnarly looking. 

Virgil, his guide to hell has admittedly “heard it all” but Jack insists that he must tell his story.  Almost a bragging confession from a sociopath who lacks any kind of empathy and feels justified in his actions.  Jack and Virgil go back and forth whether art is nature or as Virgil argues that art requires love, which Jack can’t feel or understand. There was probably a lot more deeper analysis to this aspect of the movie which I kind of zoned out on because I kept expecting the pay-off gore scenes that I was promised.  

Right up to the very end when they finally get to Hell I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the gnarly payoff of the orgy of blood,  dismemberment and pain. But it never came.  Jack, the ego-maniac even, once given an opportunity decides to try to escape from Hell, unsuccessfully.   And then it ends.  No whizzing chainsaws, no cannibals, no screaming torsos.   So on that level I was pretty underwhelmed but overall it was an entertaining movie with good characters and a humorous portrayal of an imperfect Obsessive Compulsive ego maniac killer with some psychological  and philosophical narrative intertwined.  Jack's OCD takes a back seat to his ego and confidence as he kills more. Getting more brazen and caring less about hiding his acts. Even taking a body back to the crime scene to get better photographs of her because his original photos were not to his liking.  

There’s also a house Jack is building.  He never finishes because it’s never right, because of his obsessions for perfection.  Again there’s probably some kind of parallel meaning to this but I came for blood, not  a house.  Well, there was a pretty gnarly house near the end but you’ll have to see the movie for that.  or highlight the text   Virgil asks him about his house when they meet and Jack is kind of upset with himself he didn't ever finish.  Virgil tells him to choose a different material or something like that and Jack starts constructing a house in the walk-in freezer they're in out of Jacks collection of frozen dead bodies. So there was that. 

     Non Spoilery TLDR    

It was fun and entertaining, funny a lot of the time but it wasn’t nearly the gore-fest that was advertised.  Definitely some brutal violence in scenes but it wasnt non-stop killing.  There was a lot of down-time.  There was though some rough subject matter in one of the “incidents” which is most likely what pissed off the MPAA and upset viewers at Cannes.  But a horrible gore-fest?  not even. 

Honestly after sitting through the nearly 3 hour long unrated director’s cut I was wondering how the movie will play out as an R rated film. If they cut out the very few mildly extreme scenes what the hell are you left with?