Trash Humpers

It’s a perverse prank that Trash Humpers—Harmony Korine’s defiantly grotty anti-film—can come out in the same year as Avatar, as though the spirit of celluloid is dragging 3D CGI to the toilet and giving it a swirly. Shot on VHS (quite possibly in chronological order) and edited in-camera like a 14-year-old’s skate video, Trash Humpers hates you. And, masochistically, I loved it like an abusive uncle.

Korine hasn’t made a movie—he’s manufactured found footage of two old men and an old woman, gleeful young actors in ghastly burn-victim wrinkle masks, who spent their days teaching kids to hide razor blades in apples and their nights literally humping trash. Like horny chimps, they thrust against recycle bins and give feverish hand jobs to plants. That’s not the arc of the movie. We are, as scene by scene, Korine tracks our revulsion. If, after five minutes, we’ve grown restless of tree rape, he ups the ante. Now, they’re grunting with lust at fire hydrants. Now, they’re spanking three real-life hookers. Now, they’re reciting poems and clamoring for pancakes in a sing-song snarl.

I don’t think it’s giving Korine too much credit to know that we’re a generation of shock-proof hipsters. We’ve been raised to side with the outcasts, the freaks. He’s actively testing how low we’ll go to claim cred. And so, the film starts to feel like an evidence tape of crimes happening just off screen. What’s our limit? Peeping into windows? Confederate flag shirts? Orthopedic sneakers spattered with blood? Bad grammar?

Like the Joker, these small town rednecks are nihilists. “We choose to live like free people,” one speechifies in two of three brief bits of introspection. We don’t know what they’ll do next—any effing thing they want—and as our anxieties mount, Korine slowly peels away our comfort that we’re watching an omniscient movie. Who’s holding the camera? Director or accomplice? Korine’s measured reveal, escalating from silence to breath to speech, proves that he’s in control of chaos. We’re not one step removed—we’re complicit. Intellectually, Trash Humpers is fascinating. Emotionally, it’s repellent. Korine has stripped cinema from every safety blanket and made movies, the act of sitting in the dark and trusting in the screen, feel dangerous and new. Enter at your own risk.

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