Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers is a film critic’s worst nightmare -- audibly grating, visually distorted, completely random, and lacking any kind of discernible narrative other than what you’d gather from the title, it’s 77 minutes of actors in terrifying old-people makeup committing acts of vandalism and murder, molesting garbage cans, and masturbating...read more
Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers is a film critic’s worst nightmare -- audibly grating, visually distorted, completely random, and lacking any kind of discernible narrative other than what you’d gather from the title, it’s 77 minutes of actors in terrifying old-people makeup committing acts of vandalism and murder, molesting garbage cans, and masturbating foliage. A pair of brief dialogue scenes hint that Korine may be offering up some kind of surrealist commentary on reckless consumerism, middle-class malaise, or the Xenia-fication of America, but having a beat poet in hospital garb spout off a witless rant about how great it would be to not have a head or a derelict in a french maid outfit make the declaration that the titular garbage grinders have been "spawned by our greed" come off as laughably pretentious instead of profound. Admittedly, there are a few fractured sounds and images -- such as the constant cackling of a certain excitable humper and a dead body in a ravine -- that do linger with the viewer like the vague memories of a half-forgotten nightmare, though Korine always pulls back when he should be pushing forward, and whether it all amounts to anything more than a morbid spectacle is a question best left up to the individual viewer.
Somewhere in America, four elderly rebels are swilling booze, grinding on garbage cans, giving oral sex to tree branches, breaking things, and dancing the jig. Occasionally, some kind soul invites them in for a drink. Sometimes they wind up dead; other times, perhaps, not. Meanwhile, the jubilant debauchery continues, often into the small hours of the morning.
Unlike most movies, Trash Humpers has no real beginning, middle, or end; it just kind of starts with an image of an old man squatting to defecate in front of a garage, and continues in a similar manner until the credits appear. Some will consider it high art, and others will condemn it as… well, a waste. Looking for all the world like it was shot on a VHS camcorder and copied twice before distribution, Korine’s fourth feature as a writer/director flies in the face of HD culture, playing like something you might find on an unmarked videotape fished out of a smelly bin at a garage sale or a sweltering secondhand store on a sweaty summer day -- perhaps an eccentric practical joke played on an unsuspecting buyer by a group of bored teens with bad masks and absentee parents. If that’s your idea of good time at the movies, you’re going to love Trash Humpers.
As vaguely unsettling as it all is, however, Trash Humpers just isn’t that interesting or entertaining. In Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy, Korine gave us outsider characters who were somewhat endearing, despite their sometimes off-putting quirks. In Trash Humpers, the characters are so feral and one-dimensional that it’s difficult to even connect with them, much less sympathize with them. By the time one of the humpers begins waxing philosophical during a late-night drive through a suburban neighborhood an hour into the film, it’s already too little too late, and his musings register as hopelessly forced.
Perhaps easily shocked or masochistic moviegoers will find something redeemable in Trash Humpers, though anyone looking for a freak show with actual substance is best advised to toss this one in the bin and seek out some of Korine’s aforementioned earlier works instead.
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