(2009) director Harmony Korine
Shot to have the lo-fi look of VHS video, Trash Humpers is the latest film from film-maker/provocateur Harmony Korine. After his one more largely budgeted film, Mister Lonely (2007), which featured name actors like Diego Luna and Samantha Morton, Korine returns to his DIY roots, perhaps he even surpasses them and gets somewhere below them. The film is a tribute to vandalism, anti-society, anarchy, and imperfection.
It’s about people who hump trash cans in suburban America.
In some ways, it’s a kind of genius. It’s an anti-cinematic film. The primary “characters” are four people in old-people masks (I don’t know if they are supposed to be old people or they are supposed to be people in old-people masks — the female’s mask is the least convincing) that go around humping trash cans and trees, breaking stuff, drinking wine from bottles, shooting firecrackers, singing weird songs, repeating nonsensical catch-phrases and killing people. There is no point per se to what they do. They do it because they are “free” unlike the rest of the people behind the closed doors.
It’s tedious and annoying. But it kind of has to be.
It’s either genius, or it’s not. And if it’s not, it could just be an awful film, a horribly lame experience, something you wish you could erase from your psyche.
It’s hard with such an anti-aesthetic to critique something like this. It’s bad on purpose but not in a campy way. There are aspects of horror to the film, aspects of psychosis and surrealism. There are also aspects of intentional idiocy and ersatz insanity. The characters make little sense when they talk and are meant to be read as either crazy, insipid, or transcendent.
I am confounded in what I think of it. There are aspects of it that are really subversive. But there are others that wind up in the far end of self-indulgence and inanity. I recall watching Gummo (1997) and completely despising it. And there are aspects of that film in here as well.
I watched this film right after watching John Waters’ Polyester (1981), and I found myself wondering what Waters would think of Trash Humpers. I want to say that perhaps he’d love it. I was also brought to mind of Lars von Trier’s The Idiots (1998) in which the people of a Danish commune go around acting as if they all are “developmentally disabled”, wreaking havoc, seeking some enlightened sense of freedom in extreme anti-social non-conformist behavior. Like Trash Humpers, I don’t really know what I thought of The Idiots, other than it was one of the edgier, weirder films that I could recall seeing.
But seeing and enjoying are certainly not one and the same. Yet having a lot of thoughts vs. not really knowing what to think can actually share equal space in experience.