Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2009 by Hunter Stephenson
Update: Variety just posted another positive review: “[The film is] riveting beyond all rationality, is something like Jackass, except that here the stunts are dangerous only to standards of good taste — which, of course, is precisely the point. …perverse beauty. …Across the board, tech credits are appalling — in a good way.”
One movie we’re surprised and stoked to see readers curious about is Trash Humpers, the new Harmony Korine “VHS-horror” flick. Part of the appeal thus far is the bizarre dubiousness resulting from only a handful of stills (like the one above) released online and then followed by a rickety, creepy teaser trailer. Rather than be snagged in another tired viral campaign for a film “found in a mad scientist’s dilapidated laboratory” or some lame Hollywood shit like that, Korine is genuinely a lil’ nuts IRL. And more so in his (word) salad days. So how far into crazy town did the director behind Gummo and the more subdued Mister Lonely go with Humpers? Early reviews from the Toronto International Film Festival seem to say: none more crazy. The title is literal. And we’re a lil’ relieved to hear the movie has a plot.
Until now, we wondered like everyone else whether Humpers would add-up to nothing more than a schizophrenic assault of disconnected John Waters-like sleaze dressed in the semi-Dogme 95 mental disturbance of Korine’s Julien Donkey-Boy. But the released photos of men and women do indeed belong to a not-so-abstract feature about derelict outcasts. By far, the best early review is by Eric Kohn at IndieWire, who compares it to a first-person, more scatter-shot version of Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects…
A psychotic family with shriveled mugs resembling Freddy Kruger live together in an undisclosed suburban setting, mulling about their deranged existence while engaging in eerie behaviors and the occasional murder. Unquestionably Korine’s most experimental production, it cycles through scenes as if assembled from found footage. But there’s an engaging connectivity to this vision of savage outsiders, both within the context of its fleeting 78 minutes and when considered in relation to the larger framework of the director’s consistently provocative career. …”Trash Humpers” not only sympathizes with socially ostracized misanthropes—it adopts their perspective.
Well said. I’m there. The review goes on to describe a number of sexual acts performed by “the Humpers” and their friends, including all-out tree-sex, and says that the acts are performed in the name of nihilistic expression. And cheap thrills, no doubt. One character delivers a speech on why the world would be better if people didn’t have heads, and why dinner would improve as a result. The gritty, affected retro camcorder style of the film is cited as being “mesmerizing” and for “unsuspecting beauty.” Reading the entire review, you get the sense that Kohn is not a diehard Korine fan, but he seems impressed when placing it next to his filmography.
Another review comes from The Playlist, and while it’s a bit light on specifics for my taste—none of these reviews explain the mask-not-a-mask question—it’s equally in favor of the picture…
The characters that inhabit this film have to be Korine’s strangest and in a way, his most alive and unsympathetic. While “Mister Lonely” was full of loveable outcasts who dressed as their favorite celebrities, this is full of some of the most vile people on the planet and yet…by the end of it Korine will have you considering accepting who they are.
One concern was that the film might be rushed—a weird, cheap-o quickie that shitted on narrative—especially when considering that no one in the online film community knew that Korine was working on the movie until its premiere/completion were announced a few weeks ago for TIFF. According to the second review, these worries are for naught: ”The film looks messy but every moment is very much thought-out by Korine and his team. …Aesthetically speaking, Korine’s choice of VHS blown up to 35mm works for the film fantastically. We get truly beautiful images through the grain and blur.” In summation, the reviewer feels that Korine is at his best here.
Over at IMDB, one person on the messageboards called it: ”almost like a horror film made by the psycopath(s) that was never intended for an audience.” The mini-review went on to share Korine’s thoughts on the film at TIFF during a Q&A: “The director said as much. He wanted the film to be like an artifact or a found object. He even said it wasn’t really a film at all and suggested those who are prone to walking out of movies should probably just leave before it starts.”
Another messageboarder made a stupid-funny (enlightening?) comparison to Gummo, which a few people stated wasn’t nearly as funny (in an inappropriate way, of course) compared to Humpers: ”I found that there were a lot of dogs in the film, and it seemed interesting to me, almost like the flip to Gummo which had a lot to do with cats. I wanted to ask if the prominence of dogs within the film had anything to do with the fact that they hump things. I don’t know about you, but when I think of humping, I think of dogs… ”