EVIL Expressionism in “The House That Jack Built” reviewed!


Over the span of 12 years from the 1970’s to the 1980’s, wannabe architect Jack is an accomplished engineer living in serene of the Pacific Northwest and with a lack of empathy and an internal repository of compulsive and narcissistic traits, Jack is able to be a highly successful and intelligent serial killer who seeks mastering his craft as highly artistic and divine. Over the same period of time while butchering nearly countless people, including his own family, Jack obsessive compulsive disorder not only assists his longevity of his creative expression, but also dwindles down another social expected goal of designing and engineering his own home isolated at the edge of a lake. As the body count rises, Jack compulsive restrictions loosen and he begins taking greater and greater risks of being caught. Jack narrates his voyage of viscera and macabre to a literary listener in a back-and-forth to explain and justify his murderous methods and craft.

Unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, auteur writer-director Lars Von Trier (“Antichrist” and Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 and 2″) crafts his very own artistic expression delineation with the 2018 “The House That Jack Built,” a two and half hour venture into the deconstruction of a serial killer’s personality traits as well as the flourishing experience of murder through years of repetitive brush stroke practice and self-preservation knowledge done in a self-portrait form. Graphically violent and supercharged with coarse and visually stimulating visual effects and editing, all the hallmarks of a Von Trier film, “The House That Jack Built” blends an abundance of fine arts with religion and mythology that develops into a soaring renaissance piece of art in the modern times and would inspire the most closeted psychopath to revel themselves in a heap of aesthetic and picturesque horror.

As if Matt Dillion isn’t already an entertaining and diverse actor, the “Wild Things” and “Crash” star excavates a vile and dumb luck Jack from deep within, crafting the character as so smart, he’s sometimes stupid, but with each murder subsequently gone scot-free, the confidence builds, the trade becomes tangible, and the narcism washes over ever so slightly. Dillion arcs Jack so well that the character no longer becomes the villain but an anti-hero of sorts as rooting for the slaughtering of innocents becomes a painful necessity rather than an empty desire. The titular character converses with a mysterious companion named Vergel in a way as if Jack was anecdotally telling his own biopic. Vergel symbols multiple conceptual and tangible beings, from Jack’s moral conscious to Vergil, the Augustan period Roman poet, Vergel, or Verge as Jack simple calls him, crudely interviews and thoroughly analyzes Jack’s so-called art. Verge’s off-screen presence is heartily brought to life by Bruno Ganz, an actor who once portrayed Adolf Hitler in 2004’s Academy Award nominated film, “Downfall.” Ganz takes an expected backseat to the title carrying Jack, but doesn’t succumb to being underneath’s Jack’s critical and narcissistic viewpoints, making Verge a level playing field character alongside Jack. Ganz, who passed earlier this year, is equally masterful under a relatively underwhelming role paired with pure evil and while the contrast’s magnitude should be starkly poignant, Jack and Verge are equals in the eye of the viewers and that’s how powerful Lars Von Trier’s filmmaking can really be. Jack’s chaptering stories include co-stars such as “Kill Bill’s” Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan (“Men in Black”), Sofie Gråbøl (“Nightwatch”), Riley Keough (“It Comes At Night”), Jeremy Davies (“Ravenous”), and David Bailie of “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.

In my experience with film from Lars Von Trier is that those who patron his films have polarizing affections; you either love his work or you absolutely loath his style of film. My experience consists of only one, yes one, of projects and that being “Antichrist,” and while I was not entirely enthralled with the film’s sexual themes, “The House That Jack Built” provided a plethora of philosophies to pick apart and to continue to digest even way after viewing. For those who might forego themes, philosophies, and theologies, many will bore themselves through the filmmaker’s American serial killer thriller for over two hours long, clocking in a 153 minutes, and finding themselves disoriented in a segmented tale that’s chaptered by five incidents and an epilogue over a 12 year span. Others will bang their hands over Trier’s use of repeat scenes, purposefully rolling them slow and in a calm disposition, allowing Jack to deliberate how and why he does what he does in his discussions with Verge, but these soft touches are nice pillow talk touches to the main, punchy action of Jack’s self imposed duresses under his murdering moniker, Mr. Sophistication, that palpably places the narcissistic cherry on top of misanthropic persona. The devil in the details are punchy themselves and a keystone to Trier’s overall narrative to explore the impulses of a killer’s mind. “The House That Jack Built” is a great accompaniment to shows like “Mindhunter” on Netflix or other films like “Silence of the Lambs” where serial killers vocalizes intricacies of their niche trade is very fascinating for morbid loving sympathizers.

Umbrella Entertainment releases “The House That Jack Built” onto Blu-ray home video. The full HD, 1080p, region B, uncut disc is presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and is fully operational in all sense of the phrase with a generous color palate lacing through more natural lighting than assumed there would be in comparison to “Antichrist,” but the raw tone by Manuel Alberto Claro debases the stylized techniques of “Antichrist’s” Anthony Dod Mantle to virtually a hardline and graphic depiction of reality in the 1970’s. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is respectfully verbose and robust. Trier’s loquacious exposition is actually great exposition of the crystal clear kind and the director shows off his depth and range, splicing edits together like a madman that still convey the overall theme without disregarding audio accounts. While technically sound, the Umbrella release comes regretfully with no bonus features. Brilliant, musing, and intense, “The House That Jack Built” is a Lars Von Trier legacy film breathed with unadulterated violence and sharp with superb writing potent that’s potent on every level. Trier just gets better and better with every film and look forward to his next project!

The House That Jack Built on Blu-ray!

Sanities Dissolve in a Concoction of EVIL! “Ladyworld” reviewed!


When a catastrophic ecological event traps eight teenage girls celebrating a birthday inside a house, they find themselves at the mercy of limited resources and with no adult supervision. With every window and door inescapably blocked, being trapped isn’t the only obstacle that looms over their adolescent minds when factions begin to form between sane and insanity as their cache of already scarce food and water quickly dwindle. Before her eventual disappearance, the birthday girl spoke of seeing a man attacking her right before the destructive shaking that left them befuddled. The remaining girls quickly line their thoughts in various ways from either spiraling out of control and embarking on a psyche control measure to deal with the haunting information or accepting the information and use it as a fear inducer for power. One-by-one, fears are exploited and minds are broken down to their most hostile and primal qualities that rapidly become an epidemic to those still in the realm of reality.

To preface director Amanda Kramer’s “Ladyworld,” there’s little background exposition or visual representation to really set the stage of psychological deterioration. The 2018 thriller can be said to be a modern, all-female take on the William Golding 1954 novel, “Lord of the Flies.” Produced by Pfaff and Pfaff Productions as well as A Love and Death production film, “Ladyworld” is essentially female centric and comes close to being true to form to its title in front and behind the camera with the debut feature directorial from Amanda Kramer. The script was also co-penned by Kramer and Benjamin Shearn. “Ladyworld” is credited as a festival circuit novelty with institutions such as the TIFF New Wave, BFI London, and Fantastic Fest, but “Ladyworld” is also novel in another way as in a doppelganger representation of Amanda Kramer herself as a filmmaker who sincerely believes in art house expressionism.

While all the actresses involved, portraying eight teenage girls, are spectacular in their own rite or as a pack, one particular actress stands out above the rest in name alone and more recently because of her debut in a popular science-fiction-horror Netflix series set in the 1980’s. Yup, “Stranger Things’” Maya Hawke, daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, has a co-starring role that elicits the use of her usually charmingly raspy voice into a gasp of unnerving bellows amongst her colorfully expressive mental deprivations. Yet, Hawke’s role, though equally headlined, seems more supportive against musician and television actress Ariela Barer and “Quija: Origin of Evil” actress Annalise Basso as the two teenage girls that consistently butt heads to jockey for leadership. The tension created between Barer and Basso is plumed unanticipated friction and is about as wild as any unpredictable scenario can muster. The last prominent character, the introduced unstable Dolly, has familiar parallels Ryan Simpkins’ Fangoria Chainsaw Award nominated performance in the also predominated all-female film, “Anguish,” from 2015. Simpkins trades in supernatural crazy for disastrous crazy as a teenage girl with a penchant for adding ten years her junior. Together, alternate and combative personalities fluctuate the proceedings, marking “Ladywold” unpredictable from not only Amanda Kramer’s broad-minded expression stance but also in solitary performances manage to flow as one. Rounding out the cast is Odessa Adlon, Tatsumi Romano, and Zora Casebere.

“Ladyworld” is an interesting experimental film and, unfortunately in this opinion, that’s about as far as this film might top in a market filled with visual pops, depth performances, and something new and shiny at every angle and turn. “Ladyworld” comes off a bit monotone to the preceptors in a flat line of congealed, unwavering tension from start to finish, despite coming to a head. Structurally, Kramer frames their environmental entrapment with just enough to make their plight more feasible without having to visually showcase it; the assumption, in one interpretation, is a Californian earthquake that resulted in a landslide that blocks all the windows and doors with hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds of pressure against the opening. Though this is only one interpretation of events, Kramer is very good at cascading the effect into being much more dire by reminding us that no sires can be heard, cell service has ceased, and all hope is lost within the limited space their held. That kind of compelling of the unknown and cerebral warping uncertainty is quite alluring, but that gripping element is not found equally invasive throughout.

MVDVisual and Cleopatra Entertainment has positive womenism vibes with Amanda Kramer’s “Ladyworld” being released onto DVD home video. The 94 minute presentation is in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio format that leans conveying more to a bland and flat coloring scheme. Essentially faded, no pops of primary hues are implemented as if to devoid all hope from a helplessness scenario. Details are a bit fuzzy too resulting from an aliasing issue or jaggies around the outer edges of things. Usually with Cleopatra Entertainment releases, lossy audio tracks have been rearing their ugly heads which would cause many questions marks with reviewers familiar with Cleopatra Entertainment as its a sublabel to Cleopatra Records – a Los Angeles-based independent record label, but with “Ladyworld,” the English dual channel audio tracks is rather robust with accompanying range and depth. However, the Callie Ryan experimental acapella instrumental can be nails on a chalk board that, again, sets a gloomy tone that consistently punches you in every perceivable sensory organ. Bonus features are slim, including an image slideshow and the theatrical and teaser trailer. “Ladyworld” has niche appeal, but Amanda Kramer and crew really put themselves out into the cinema-verse with style and performance to ultimately deliver a surreal and frightening tapestry of the unhinged and underdeveloped teenage psyche.

Own Amanda Kramers all female casted “Ladyworld!”