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Film Of The Week Horror and homilies in the house that von Trier built

The Danish director’s latest is an uneasy mix of graphic carnage and philosophical musings, says ALAN FRANK

The House that Jack Built (18)
Directed by Lars von Trier

“FOR many years I’ve made films about good women, now I did a film about an evil man,” says Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier of his extraordinary and often nausea-inducing art-film shocker.

His scarifying portrait of a serial killer over 20 years in the Pacific north west is replete with all-too-realistic imagery of sadistic slaughters, rather too often awkwardly interspersed, to disconcerting effect, with von Trier’s views on life, death and culture.

We first meet the eponymous Jack, chillingly played by Matt Dillon in the best from of his career, as he undertakes the first of several uncomfortably graphic slaughter sprees that advance the narrative when he gives a woman (Uma Thurman) a lift when her car breaks down, only to smash her face in with a jack that doesn’t work.

And that’s just the start of a series of graphic slayings that establish Dillon’s character as someone who makes Norman Bates seem like a vegan pacifist.

Von Trier doesn’t pull any punches. The carnage includes a mother and her two young kids, cutting out a woman’s breasts and keeping his trophy corpses in a former restaurant’s cold room.

He goes on to practise his version of taxidermy on the bodies and, when the director concentrates on the plot's macabre elements, he delivers as grisly a horror show as you could see and, very creditably, racks up nerve-wracking suspense.

It's uncomfortable to watch and overlong but, thanks to his film-making skills, Von Trier creates two ingeniously melded but diverse films, one of them very much soaked in blood.

 

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