SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | April 1, 2010
Director: Harmony Korine
Writer: Harmony Korine
Starring: Rachel Korine, Travis Nicholson, Brian Kotzur, Harmony Korine
Shot in handheld POV – as if someone found an old VHS tape from the 1980s – Trash Humpers follows a gruesome threesome of elderly sexual deviants. Okay, let’s not beat around the bush – the title is quite literal – these old perverts have a strange penchant for grinding on trash cans and other inanimate objects. They also drag baby dolls from their bicycles, tap dance in parking lots, and kill televisions (they must be fans of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin).
Every film by Harmony Korine has a few “what the fuck?” moments; but Trash Humpers is the first to be one long, uninterrupted “what the fuck?” moment. I have taken a lot of time to chew on this review; but, over a month later, I still find Trash Humpers to be lodged in my stomach impenetrable by digestive fluids. Remembering Trash Humpers still makes me feel nauseous and dizzy. I still have nightmares of the strange images and songs.
It is difficult to criticize a film for having such a penetrating affect on my psyche, in fact that typically constitutes a great film in my opinion. But to call Trash Humpers a great film would be totally wrong. This is definitely not a film for everyone. In fact, Trash Humpers is probably one of the most inaccessible films I have ever watched. It is difficult not to assume that Korine’s sole purpose in making Trash Humpers was to fuck with the audience, piss them off, and force them to react. Trash Humpers is pure shock for shock’s sake. There is no other reason for it to exist.
The surreal and other-worldly Trash Humpers plays like a lucid dream gone awry (Korine was purportedly in the middle of an intensive lucid dreaming training, so he was not able to make his way to Austin for the SXSW 2010 screening). One of the mantras shouted throughout Trash Humpers is “Make it, don’t fake it!”, but Korine’s film is completely fake. The protagonists are “actors” (including Harmony Korine and his wife Rachel) in hauntingly unrealistic geriatric masks and the suburban setting is eerily void of “normal” humans.
Truth be told, I have been an unwavering fan of Harmony Korine’s since Gummo; I find a strange kind of genius in his absurdity. My main criticism of Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy is that they were purely voyeuristic – the sole purpose of both films was to follow around strange characters. Then, Mister Lonely proved to me that Korine possessed the talent to merge his unique brand of surrealism with a cohesive narrative. I had high hopes for the direction that Korine was going with Mister Lonely, but I probably should not have assumed that he would follow down that path. Korine does not appear to have any aspirations to tell traditional narrative stories and Trash Humpers slips right back into Korine’s routine of following around strange characters with no plot to call its own.
Now if I was stoned out of my mind while watching late night television and happened upon Trash Humpers on a cable access channel, I would probably be mesmerized by it for a while; and that’s probably the only way that Trash Humpers should be viewed. The stoned late-night access television audience may have been Korine’s intended audience – if so, he succeeded tenfold.