Dir: Harmony Korine
Some of my co-workers know that I review movies. Occasionally they’ll ask me for a recommendation, or for info about an upcoming film. “So, Shannon,” they’ll say, “what movie are you reviewing this week?” And for the last few days whenever somebody has asked me this, I’ve told them, with as straight and as serious a face as possible: “Trash Humpers. I’m reviewing Trash Humpers.” And it’s weird, because there’s a part of me that’s embarrassed to say those words out loud, but there’s another, more perverse part of me that gets a tiny electric thrill from shocking people. It’s like I have a maniacal cartoon demon on my shoulder, urging me to weird-out the squares. Harmony Korine is very familiar with this demon. He has one of his own, and it’s the size of a Buick – an old, rusted, burnt-out Buick, strewn with rotten garbage and overgrown with weeds and slick with vaginal juices and if you give him the slightest opening he will drop to all fours and proceed to frantically fuck the shit out of this Buick demon right in front of your horrified eyes, while your grandmother, your kids, and the neighborhood dog all look on in disbelief.
It’s my own damn fault, really. I brought this on myself. When reviewing Korine’s previous film, 2007’s Mister Lonely, I had this to say about it: “There is a feeling one gets when watching [Korine’s films] – a feeling impossible to describe, but a feeling that is wholly new, wholly unique, at times disturbing but always at the very least provocative. The unfortunate thing about Mister Lonely is how inadequate it is at translating Korine’s singular vision to the screen.” He must have heard me, because in no way does Trash Humpers suffer from the same flaw. It is pure, uncut Korine – a film seemingly excised directly from the man’s skull, brought up raw and wriggling and delivered straight to the viewer with a bare minimum of processing. There is not one normal thing about it. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I do strangely respect it. You’ll notice that I gave this movie a rating of 4.5 out of 5. I’m as shocked as anyone, believe me. Watching it, I couldn’t wait for the torture to be over. So I asked myself: What was this movie setting out to do, and how well did it accomplish that task? If looked at from this angle, Trash Humpers is a near perfect film.
Okay, so what are we talking about here? Let me try and break it down. Trash Humpers follows the exploits of three dirty old men and one dirty old woman (Korine, some buddies and his wife, all in full costume, complete with scarily effective masks) as they roam the streets of Nashville, breaking appliances, peeking through people’s windows, cooing, cawing and cackling, and well, humping trash. As in bumping and grinding and rubbing their crotches against garbage cans and dumpsters. But not only that! They also molest foliage, torture dolls, tap dance, sing folk tunes, drink to excess, laugh at children and, oh yeah, kill people. Two of them, I believe. I’m not exactly sure. All of which was shot on VHS-era technology, and it looks it. The movie is filled with all the familiar artifacts of that early home video system – squiggly tracking mishaps, sloppy-ass splices, dropped out, grainy images – the lot. It’s as if you were walking down some dirty sidewalk beneath a railroad abutment and came across a filth-encrusted video tape. And if for some damn reason you decided to pick the thing up, clean it off and stick it in your old VCR, Trash Humpers is what would pop up on screen. It’s like it was made by aliens.
And I’m sure Korine meant it to seem this way. “Provocative” is not even the word I’d use to describe the film – it’s more like a terrorist attack. But what does it all mean? Is it just a series of random, crazy shit? It might seem that way, at first, but maybe it’s not. About halfway though the movie a character that the Humpers encounter along the way gives a little speech that would seem to encapsulate the “philosophy” behind the movie – something about how we’ve fucked up the world, filling it with our cast-off filth and garbage, and this, this is what we have reaped from that harvest – four old degenerate fucks who go around humping trash. It’s humanity’s hubris come to get us in the form of elderly trolls. But maybe not. Maybe that’s all bullshit, because it just so happens that the character in question is a dude in a French maid’s outfit and by the next scene he’s dead, bashed in the skull with a hammer.
So who gives a fuck? Maybe the movie doesn’t mean a thing. Maybe it’s all just a practical joke on Korine’s part, his jab in the eye of the Establishment. But somehow I don’t think that’s it. I think that Harmony Korine is a genuine artist, and like all great artists, he creates a world and invites us to come and play in it. Throughout the movie words like “Rec” and “Tracking” keeps popping up on screen, elements of that bygone, VCR world. One of the words that appears quite often is “Play.” I’ve decided that this is what Trash Humpers is all about – it’s about Korine & co. putting on a show, dressing up in weird-ass costumes and roaming the streets at night, playing. The question is, though, do you want to play along? That’s for you to decide. If you’ve read this far in the review you’ll already know how you feel.
Now go out there and hump some trash, you sick fuck.