I don’t know if I can say that Trash Humpers is actually a good movie. As a matter of fact, it might really be awful. Don’t get me wrong, I watched the film in its entirety. But Trash Humpers isn’t a film that can be graded or analyzed on any basic level. But as a form of provocation, Trash Humpers is an effective, if not entirely bewildering, work of art. But let me be clear: that doesn’t mean I’m recommending Trash Humpers as an essential work of cinema. Instead, I’m just willing to accept Harmony Korine’s film as a startling work of provocation, and the creative bridge between Mister Lonely and his masterpiece Spring Breakers – SCREENING MARCH 21st AT THE FRIDA CINEMA!!!
After experiencing trouble with his international financiers on Mister Lonely, Korine wanted to go in a lo-fi direction. Entirely shot and edited on VHS tape, Trash Humpers is as ugly visually as its content. In many circumstances that’d be a negative, but with Trash Humpers it is the intent, so, in essence, the film succeeds. Those familiar with the filmography of Harmony Korine know that his films are exceedingly uncomfortable, and Trash Humpers fits that bill. At first, the film plays as the title suggests, as people in old-man make-up hump various things, in many instances trash. But as the film progresses, it morphs into a dark horror film. These deranged lunatics don’t just get their kicks from humping piles of trash, they also have a bloodlust which results in an increasing body count as the running time progresses.
Adding that extra layer of dementia, Korine is the cameraman and at times narrator, the unseen member of this deranged gang, throughout the entirety of Trash Humpers. He leads the reciting of the repetitive chants, a precursor to James Franco’s repetition of “Sprang Break.” In the same way that with Gummo is Korine making John Waters’ Slacker, Trash Humpers is Harmony Korine’s Blair Witch Project, except Korine is able to make his film truly disturbing, not an ephemeral gimmick. But the title and the provocation are somewhat a gimmick, but Korine makes the work so uninviting that those seeking irony will quickly give up.
But getting deeper into Trash Humpers is an impossibility. It’s a work of provocation that will leave a varied audience walking away with wildly different interpretations, even if they all do agree they don’t like it. What I find interesting about Trash Humpers in the context of Harmony Korine’s career is how it was stepping stone for certain tendencies in Spring Breakers, namely the haunting repetition of phrases. But Spring Breakers also incorporates a certain sense of wonder from Mister Lonely, where a bunch of celebrity impersonators start a civilization on their own. Spring Breakers is film that captures the dream-like essence of Mister Lonely while maintaining that awful, uneasy edge of Trash Humpers.
On this orbiting rock full of senseless death and destruction that is hurtling through the vast unknown of the cosmos, I take comfort in knowing that a movie called Trash Humpers exists. It’s not even Korine’s most fascinating work, but it comes from this deeper weirdness that drives the filmmaker and makes him and his work truly one of a kind. Obviously, there’s nothing like Trash Humpers.