Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers has a premise so mind-bogglingly stupid—kids wearing geriatric masks wander about rural Tennessee streets, alleys, and homes while simulating sex with garbage containers—that the outcome could only be genius or daft. In a final tally, it’s the latter by a long shot, though not before Korine fleetingly taps the same freaky societal underbelly groove that energized moments of his notorious 1997 directorial debut Gummo. Shot and edited on VHS, with all the “REW” and “Auto Tracking” indicators and scratchy recording marks left intact, Korine’s latest is another attempted affront to convention and propriety, focusing its aesthetically crummy gaze on a quartet of masked individuals (the Gummo kids grown into rotten old freaks?) faux-screwing trash cans and trees, dragging baby dolls around town with their bikes, tossing TVs and tap dancing in parking lots (it’s shock-cinema performance art!), and letting loose with incessant chirp-screeches. Korine’s fast-and-loose visual schema initially has a cruddy beauty, just as his Jackass-ish conceit has a goading absurdity that finds humor and horror in the unbridled vandalism of his miscreant subjects. Yet while Trash Humpers‘s unique imagery is momentarily bracing, it feels better suited for photography (apparently, Korine’s production prep began with still photos), which might allow for greater concentration on the hunched shoulders, hollow eyes, and disturbing behavior of his “protagonists.” Saddled with cinematic runtime and thematic demands, however, the filmmaker quickly resorts to repeating himself and, in a prolonged bit of expository diarrhea, overtly spelling out his modus operandi of exposing the deviancy lurking within both suburbia and parental impulses. Discussing the film in such terms, however, implies that there’s a coherent artistic objective driving the proceedings, rather than, as suggested by its juvenile provocations and deadening monotony, simply a fondness for all things crass. Korine’s staged stunt is intended to resemble a found-footage artifact “that was in some attic or buried in some ditch” (per the press notes), an inherently impossible aim that refutes his characters’ mantra (“Make it, don’t fake it!”) and epitomizes this prankster wank-off’s wannabe-transgressive phoniness.
- IFC Films
- 78 min
- Harmony Korine
- Harmony Korine
- Rachel Korine, Brian Kotzur, Travis Nicholson, Harmony Korine, Chris Gantry, Kevin Guthery, Paige Spain, Dave Cloud, Chris Crofton, Charlie Ezel
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