SXSW Film ‘10 — Trash Humpers

Since Trash Humpers, the new film from Harmony Korine (Gummo, Mister Lonely), played last week at SXSW, I’ve heard people try and defend the film for its ability to stick with you days after watching it.

This is true.

Trash Humpers does linger on your person long after you have left the theater. You know what else has a habit of sticking with you for a long period of time? Syphilis. Trash Humpers is the syphilis of found footage films.

There is no easy way to describe Trash Humpers and the lunacy contained within.

The film appears, for all intents and purposes, as a VHS tape found in a dumpster or in the bottom shelf of your local head shop. The majority of the film follows a group of grotesque elderly people (in reality, they are actors in highly disturbing latex masks) as they wander around the town encountering other grotesque people.

If you’ve ever want to see your grandfather give fellatio to a tree branch, cupping the leaves as he works the branch, this is your type of movie. The same can be said if you’ve ever found yourself overcome by the intense desire to watch a nursing home’s Island of Misfit Retirees grind against a garbage can like an overexcited pooch.

The “elderly” that Korine captures on film are prone to excess drinking, mischief with firecrackers and force feeding the mentally retarded dish cleaning soap-soaked pancakes.

When they are not recording their own personal snuff films or kidnapping infants, the elderly also enjoy making the most god-awful high-pitched honking noises that need to be heard to believed.

But then again, they really don’t need to be heard.

Trash Humpers really doesn’t need to be watched, period. There is no redeeming quality to this plot-less exercise in endurance.

Pretentious hipsters can cry out about the film’s tension building or how the movie holds up a mirror to society’s dark soul — but there are films out there (quality films with real talented cast and crew behind them) that do the same.

No, this movie seems to have its origins in a drunken bet between Korine and his pals that he could grab a video camera, film a bunch of seriously messed up monkeyshines (Jackass as filmed by David Lynch), age the film to appear as if it is a third-generation copy of a VHS tape and then convince an audience desperate to appear in  “the know” about film that they have just watched genius.

Well, I call shenanigans. Trash Humpers is not genius. It is interesting — in the way watching road kill decompose on the side of the road is interesting. It’s daring and challenging — but so is being kicked in the balls.

And that is what watching Trash Humpers felt like. Being kicked in the balls for an hour.

Korine, like Richard Kelly, seems to be a director who has become known for a certain shtick and, desperate to retain his core group of fans, seems to go out of his way to further exaggerate that image — at the expense of growing as a filmmaker.

I didn’t, and probably never well, find anything entertaining about Trash Humpers — not even if I was completely wasted and in the company of my viral video-loving friends. Yet there is a group of people that seem to love it.

Watching Trash Humpers, I was reminded of a joke my friends and I used to tell during school:

Two penguins are taking a shower together. One penguin turns to the other and asks his friend to hand him the bar of soap. The second penguin replies: “What do you think I am, a typewriter.”

The joke is not meant to be funny. It’s meant to expose those people who are so eager to please their friends that they will laugh at a joke — even if it makes no sense. Trash Humpers has exposed the equivalent in film fans.

Category: Festival Favorites

Director: Harmony Korine

The South by Southwest film festival will be held in Austin from March 12 through the 20th. For more information about attending the festival and the films being shown, visit

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