Trash Humpers - TIFF 2009 Day 5

dir. Harmony Korine

Trash Humpers is a surprisingly literal title. There is in fact an abundance of trash humping going on here as Harmony Korine and three other grotesquely made-up "devils" go around causing chaos in the streets, parking lots and abandoned areas of Memphis. The movie is designed to look like found footage, something you might find in a ditch off the side of the road. It appears to be shot on VHS or something similar and is edited together is a purposefully blunt way. So the best way to experience this thing would probably be a beat up old Zenith tube tv via a dusty VHS top-loader. Sometimes "auto tracking" appears on the screen, FF, REW -- Korine accurately recreates the experience of watching an old home movie that's been left unprotected to the elements. Trash Humpers just happens to be the home movies of a pack of demon spawn let loose on southern suburbia. Actually, that might make it sound a little more interesting than it actually is since these three guys and a girl usually spend more time drunk on wine, bent over a trash can cackling at themselves than causing any real havoc.

There are some memorable, inspired moments -- brief flourishes that break the monotony of watching grotesque characters get drunk and yell at each other in high-pitched, grating voices. As in Gummo, Korine spends some time observing the locals in their natural habitat. When the devils wander into someone's home and hang out them, it has that weird Borat type effect of bringing out the worse in those people. So it's impossible to look away or not be affected when they meet the worlds worst racist stand-up comic or a gentleman in a French-maid outfit who is inspired to poetry by the actions of these monsters. His words lay out the film's purpose and while he delivers the purpose of this whole experiment the monsters lie drunk upon this bridge with one of them throwing firecrackers at his feet and it's a weirdly potent scene. And as if to say, fuck that shit - this isn't some polemic on consumerism or rebellion, this is about some hell-spawns that like to fuck trash barrels -- they duly murder the man.

These moments are unfortunately to few and far between. It really feels like it's 80 percent staggering drunk and cackling, 10 percent profound encounters with locals and 10 percent destroying shit in parking lots. It often reminds you of some frightening, nightmare version of Jackass. That isn't a completely bad thing since it's obviously trying to scare you, and it largely does. There are moments when a small dog or a baby enters the picture and you genuinely fear for the lives of these defenseless beings. So I can respect the unease the film generates -- I only wish there was a bit more substance to appreciate.