Film review by: Witney Seibold
No narrative, no named characters, no scripted dialogue, “Trash Humpers” is the latest calculated affront from Harmony Korine, the filth autuer behind “Gummo” and “julien donkey-boy.” Like his previous films, “Trash Humpers” reveals Korine’s interest in the lowest dregs of low-class life, depicting, as it does, a group of decaying, insane, cackling, possibly homeless oldsters, running about the rural areas of Tennessee committing random acts of violence, vandalism, and the titular trash humping; yes, dear readers, the characters in “Trash Humpers” actually spend a lot of time grinding their pelvises against city-issue upright trash cans. The conceit of the film is that the Humpers are capturing themselves in the act with a hand-held VHS camcorder, showing off as it were, while ranting, mumbling, and chanting their mantra: “Make it, don’t fake it.”
There is something undeniably nightmarish about “Trash Humpers.” The degraded VHS photography makes it seem harsh, immediate, and, strangely, hyper-real. And yet, there isn’t a moment where the film’s naturalness isn’t undercut by its own obvious artificiality; the characters, and by extension the filmmakers, are clearly acting out for the cameras. The characters in the film were played by Korine himself, his wife Rachel, and a few other friends of his, all wearing rubbery facial prosthetics to make them look like they’re in their mid-80s. These creepy old-person faces on top of obviously youthful bodies, committing surreal, forced, artificial acts of vandalism and violence with the hyper-real VHS feel… I have to admit that I’ve had nightmares exactly like that.
There is death in the air. There are dead bodies discovered by the Humpers, and strange little songs composed to go with the discovery (“Three little devils jumped over the wall, chopped off their heads, murdered them all”). Eventually the vandalism escalates into a remorse-free, off-the-cuff atmosphere of violence that leads to several murders, all captured gleefully on tape, like the brainless injures of a skate punk video. Korine has taken the moral emptiness of his adolescent characters from “Gummo” and outdone himself. No longer taking place in a different moral world, lower than our own, “Trash Humpers” seems to take place in a new dimension entirely. A dimension where moral have never even been discussed.
There is something utterly hypnotic about the disgusting universe these cartoon monsters inhabit. For long stretches of “Trash Humpers,” you will begin to feel worn down, like the outside world has transformed, darkened, vanished. It’s like a philosophical snuff film.
“Trash Humpers” is designed to elicit fear, I think, but also a surreal, sick confusion. It will make you feel dirty, joyless, and sad. A lot of young hipsters have latched onto the young Korine as an icon of indie filmmaking. Perhaps after seeing “Trash Humpers,” they’ll be less eager to see his films. Korine is definitely talented, and clearly has a lot on his mind. “Trash Humpers,” though is so hard to sit through, so brutal, so viscous and grimy, so nightmarish, that it’ll take a while before you can digest any sort of message Korine may have.
Korine didn’t fake it. He made it.