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The House That Jack Built

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
The House That Jack Built Movie Poster Image
Extreme violence, nudity, language in serial killer story.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 152 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 18+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Definitely not a message film. It doesn't even argue that "crime doesn't pay."

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main characters are a psychopathic killer and a demon. The other characters are humans who are basically objects for the killer's "art" projects.


Film is an examination of violence; that's its focus/purpose. Extreme cruelty, glorification of brutality will disturb sensitive viewers. Seen through eyes of killer who highly approves of his actions, so tears/suffering he causes via torture and murder are presented positively. Graphic bludgeonings, stranglings, knifings, etc. -- mostly inflicted on women, some on children. A woman's bare breasts are marked for removal by the killer; the removal presumably occurs while she's alive, and then the severed body parts are later used by the killer. Cruelty to animals.


Bare breasts/semi-nude dead bodies shown in a violent context (see "Violence"). Buttocks shown in another scene.


Profanity includes "f--k," "goddamn," and "crap."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The House That Jack Built is director Lars von Trier's detached but very, very brutal look at the career of an active serial killer (Matt Dillon). Expect extremely gory, graphic violence -- including bludgeoning, strangling, stabbing, torture, child murder, and manipulation of dead bodies. There's nudity (breasts, other body parts) in a cruel, violent, menacing context. Language includes "f--k" and more. Sensitive viewers are likely to find the movie's content extremely disturbing, and it's absolutely not for kids. Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman, and Riley Keough co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byslasher23 January 30, 2019

Very brutal

Very brutal violence and disturbing images and some brief nudity
Adult Written byJim24 January 18, 2019
So bad it’s good. It really is a marvel to see people taking this seriously, as I thought the murders to be incredibly unrealistic and fake-looking and Matt Dil... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bygudvardarson January 21, 2019

Brilliant. A bloody misunderstood masterpiece but definitely for mature audiences only.

I'm a big 17-year-old Lars von Trier fan and this film did not disappoint. If you loved the depraved second volume of Nymphomaniac, you'll love this.... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byTomzie2002 December 18, 2018

The scariest movie ever

OK so I found this film online and had no clue what it was so I looked at the trailer and found out how disgusting this film was, Whoever decided this was a goo... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT, Jack (Matt Dillon) -- a methodical, well-funded man with OCD who also happens to be an extremely prolific serial killer -- is being escorted to hell by someone named Verge (Bruno Ganz). Jack and Verge chat about Jack's "career," with plenty of graphic flashbacks to his murderous acts and the "art" projects he undertook using corpses as material. Among his targets: women played by Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, and Riley Keough.

Is it any good?

Is this relentlessly vicious film a satire on humans' capacity for evil, an examination of psychopathy, or a senseless dive into depravity? Probably all of the above. Celebrated auteur Lars von Trier's cinematic skill can't be denied. Pretty much every film he makes is masterfully executed: His scripts, cinematography, casting, editing, and use of music, as well as the performances he elicits are usually very good. Sometimes great. But his fascinations can lead to places most people wouldn't care to go. Perhaps some of that is artistic courage. Perhaps some is morbid obsession. Whatever the engine, the ride is likely more enjoyable for the driver than the passengers. Von Trier's Nymphomaniac Vol. I & II, for instance, were hard-core sex at its most joyless.

What audience The House That Jack Built might have beyond an extraordinarily narrow, bloodthirsty niche is hard to say. It's a long (152-minute) parade of savagery. And that's the theatrical version; there's also a director's cut, for those who just can't get enough of graphic, close-up murders. If nothing else, von Trier seems to be enjoying himself -- though it's somewhat upsetting to think about what it means that he could make such a barbaric film that seems almost mischievous. The director even refers to himself in Jack, throwing in clips from his previous films as evidence of human malevolence. He also seems to revel in Jack's sadism, especially toward women. It's probably significant that, though Jack also kills men, it's the women we see tortured and brutalized on-screen. Jack and Verge ramble on about Jack's detachment and ambitions, offering descriptions of his behavior that will ring a bell with readers of Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test, but they never really delve into him as a person with an origin story. The film is very well made, with solid performances and occasional humor (as when Jack incompetently talks his way into a future victim's house), but it's likely to make most viewers sorry they entered the theater.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The House That Jack Built's extreme violence. Why do you think there's so much of it in the film? Is it necessary to make the film's point? What is the film's point?

  • Jack says he has killed both men and women. Why, then, do you think all the extreme cruelty and brutality we see on-screen is inflicted on women?

  • Do you find the experience of watching this film enlightening, thought-provoking, emotional, satisfying? Why?

Movie details

For kids who love scares

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