Experiments In Film: Trash Humpers (2009)

Reeling from the headache that would prove to be working in a corporate film setting, controversial and cult-adored filmmaker Harmony Korine went about making something so completely of its own world that watching it is an experience nearly inexplicable.  His work Trash Humpers is about exactly what it states, people dressed in masks who hump trash.  Jumping on the popularity of found footage films, Korine admitted to setting up the piece to seem like something found in a home video collection, and even claims to have contemplated just leaving the work on a VHS tape somewhere on the side of the road.  The abrasive piece of arthouse grunge cinema is arguably unwatchable as a series of masked individuals travel down back roads and side alleys of some unnamed American town, perform crude sexual acts on trees, mocking various citizens and lighting a ton of fireworks at all hours of the night.  At no point during the hour plus movie are we told why exactly these people engage in their actions, nor is their a linear evolution to their behaviors, they simply do crude actions and seem to find crude behavior amusing, as is evidenced both in their hiring of multiple prostitutes and in their discussions with a self-proclaimed comedian who relies on racial and sexually demeaning commentary to get laughs.  It is at a quick glance tantamount to shock cinema, however, when one truly engages the work and reflects on its possibilities, Trash Humpers is something far grander than John Waters style shock.

The film is crude and abrasive and at multiple times throughout the film I found myself fully aware that my jaw was dropping completely at what was being depicted.  Between the absurd dialogue and eerie gutural laughing it is hard to find anything appealing within the context of a few people banging plastic garbage receptacles, however, even with the use of gritty, technologically inferior video recording devices, Korine manages to catch a handful of absolutely beautiful moments throughout the film, every once in awhile a streetlight will catch the dirt and reflection in the camera in such a way that makes film more surreal than horrific, almost Bunuelian in its existence.  The question that most viewers will likely bring up when watching this work is a singular and resounding "why."  It is hard to explain why the group does their actions and even more difficult to justify them, but our answer to this question comes in the closing moments of the film, as one of the masked people explains that they enjoy living free from the chains of conformity, citing jobs, religion and other social norms as being problematic.  He claims that he finds their illogical order and refusal to break from the desired mold far more inexplicable and sad than his own behavior.  It is a profound statement and one that still has me considering my own engagement in society long after viewing the curious work.  However, Korine does remind us of a very real fact, even the most bizarre of individuals have ties to those they love, even the meanest and wickedest of person may be a mother, and that role is always taken with a high level of seriousness.

For more information on Harmony Korine or to find a copy of Trash Humpers, click on either of the images below:


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