LOG: Trash Humpers

It's 2010, and there are plenty things to be terrified about in today’s world. Trash Humpers throws one more log on the fire: old white people. Harmony Korine's latest nut-punch of a film is the story of three plucky 70-somethings (2 men and a woman,) wreaking havoc on what is ostensibly the very dirty south. Our heroes go around grinding on garbage bins, breaking shit, swearing in a ear-piercing, glass shattering shrieks, bellowing obtuse catchphrases like insane parrots ("Make it, don't take it, make it, don't take it!!!") and generally behaving like hooligans 50 years their junior. Season all this with a dash of good old fashioned southern deep-fried hatemongering, and voila! Along the way, they also encounter an endlessly colorful coterie of lowlifes and degenerates (including a wholesome evening of ass-slapping with a trio of call-girls.) But tempting as it is to label the film as shit for shit's sake, Korine somehow earns this outlandishness by fashioning the ugly circus into a kind of a warped morality tale.

It’s (probably?) a critique on the trailer trash culture of the Deep South (one character regularly sports a confederate flag t-shirt,) and as such, it’s poignant and truly frightening. One scene finds the three old folks gathered around on a rooftop to watch a scrawny, bearded drifter in a maid’s outfit deliver an impassioned nonsense soliloquy in nursery school rhyme. I couldn’t help but be reminded of a bunch of retirees at a dinner theater as they cackled wildly at him, breaking bottles on the ground, amused not by the words he spoke but with their own authority to make him dance and sing and talk for their disinterested pleasure.

Other moments (such as when a two-headed man servant makes them pancakes, which they flatly refuse to eat) are harder to decipher. But as a portrait of sub-suburban (nearly rural) decay, the nauseatingly intimate tone of the film is effective. The directors hope for the feel of 'found footage' is never totally realized, as he can't resist framing his shots, if ever briefly, and even (*gasp*) holding his camera relatively steady (thank God.) It's to his credit that he doesn't push the grim aesthetic any further, as it would only provoke many more viewers out of their seats and further obfuscate his ideas, which are a tough enough nut to crack as it is.

Trash Humpers ends with a compellingly bizarre and grotesque ending, as inscrutable as it is haunting and scary-sick. Korine's a polarizing figure, and for good reason, but though Trash Humpers is not an enjoyable watch, you may find it, as I did, strangely cathartic and well-aimed. These people do exist, if only in the barely-buried ids of thousands of uneducated, unwashed Americans, their evilness often thankfully reigned in by the chorus of bible-thumpers which overwhelm them in their little backwater towns. Trash Humpers doesn't mock its subject; it's serious as a heart attack about them, illuminating their disgustingness in a surprising and affecting way. It reminds you you're fighting the good fight.

In a cinematic year packed to the brim with shock cinema (The Killer Inside Me, The Human Centipede,) this is comparatively small potatoes (there's only one murder, which occurs off-screen.) But seeing that Korine’s film at least has some kind of discernable thesis behind it, it will probably end up being my favorite of the bunch.

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