SXSW Film: Trash Humpers

I find that you are either familiar with writer/Director Harmony Korine’s work or you’re not. For the uninitiated looking for bleeding-edge indie film you may want to tread lightly in, but tread I would recommend.  Most seem to best know Korine as the writer of Larry Clark’s 1995 ground breaking and controversial film Kids. Korine would debut as a director with 1997’s Gummo a few years later, which has gone on to become something of a cult classic. Gummo can almost work as something of a friendship litmus test. If you are looking for something that pushes the limits, look no further.

Gummo shares a kinship with Korine’s latest Trash Humpers in that it doesn’t have a linear narrative. To be honest, I really didn’t find Trash Humpers to have any narrative at all. The film opens with three old people humping trash cans. The film plays out as one of those “people show up and shit happens” films as someone in the line said before the film. Gummo is similar in this way though with more characters. With Trash Humpers there is some kind of sick “car wreck” type underlying madness to it all that keeps you fixated on the screen unable to take your eyes off of what is happening, no matter how far the escalation goes, and go it does.

Looking like it was shot and edited entirely on VHS, Trash Humpers is meant more as a found artifact than a film. Following four elderly looking, though mentally and physically youthful, cognizant though arguably crazed individuals. Three share most of the screen time while the fourth spends most behind the camera laughing, grunting, and shouting sayings that will drill their way into your brain and live there for days and soon weeks after the experience. I would find myself blurting out “Make it make it don’t take it” in that crazed southern accent to the point of annoyance of friends. For those that understand the kind of undertone under which it is shouted it makes some sort of bizarre, maddening, perverse sense. At times it could maybe even be a sick commentary on our world which has become so divisive.

Yes I said experience. Trash Humpers has that rare quality to go beyond that which you see on screen. Crawling into your head and living there uninvited for days on end. It’s tantamount to the characters in the film squatting in your head. I would argue that while initially it does so based on some of the hilarity from the acts portrayed on screen, it stews due to a heavier subtext that may or may not be there. While some of the acts carried out in the film are absurd and horrific, the title is literal, there are lots of trash can humping going on. It’s accompanied by acts of vandalism, violence, and odd bizarre commentary that actually makes sense outside the absurdest world of the film.

Unfortunately as much as I love about the first hour or so of Trash Humpers, it began to over stay it’s welcome near the end. Being that it has no clear narrative and is comprised more of individual scenes it escalates to a point where it began to feel a bit tired and quit offering anything new to really keep me engaged and locked in.

Trash Humpers is also one of those films that will split viewers. I am fairly certain that my view on it is well out side the norm. During my screening at SXSW this is easily the first film I have sat in where I saw probably close to a quarter of the audience run for the door before it had ended. While this is true, I still recommend at least testing the waters and watching the trailer. The film dips it’s toe in several genres with out ever committing to one. At times I thought it was a modern Texas Chainsaw Massacre, no not that crap remake stuff, I am talking about Tobe Hopper’s ’74 original. That’s not to say it’s a horror film, it’s just that some of the actions on screen can be so shocking though oddly enthralling this wouldn’t be shocking to see happen in the real world. I guess that is why it humped it’s way into my mind.

I give Trash Humpers 4 “fellating tree branches” out of 5

By John Coovert

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