One of the interesting aspects of “American Psycho” is what the film leaves out. We see some of Patrick Bateman’s murder, but in the final act – when the victims find another body in the cupboard and when Bateman makes a tearful confessional phone call to his lawyer – we realize he was much busier than we knew.
Lars von Trier’s “The House That Jack Built” builds on this idea. “For a while I’m going to divide my story into five randomly selected incidents over a 12 year period,” says Jack (Matt Dillon) at the start of the film. He recounts five points in his life that he claims do not represent any particular arc, but as we watch Jack become more adept at killing (more sadistic, more brutal), we realize we are witnessing an escalation of true crime.
Jack has a lot in common with Patrick Bateman, making “The House That Jack Built” a sort of art-house mirror version of “American Psycho”. Apart from being obsessed with cleanliness, the two assassins were keenly aware of their flaws. “I was trying so hard to fake normal empathy, to hide among the masses,” Jack recalls as he rehearsed facial expressions in the mirror. Like Bateman, Jack is fascinated by the way he avoids any consequences for his actions; we start to question whether he’s telling the truth. It’s a difficult and brutal film, but it’s worth it because it complements the themes in “American Psycho.”