The ever-interesting Harmony Korine has always found new and bizarre ways of expressing himself. His versatile style is always changing from the beautifully shot "Mister Lonely” to his new, lo-fi experiment, “Trash Humpers.” When we say lo-fi we mean shot on a VHS camcorder from the 1980s, edited in camera and blown up to 35mm. His aesthetic choice is bizarre and dangerous to say the least. However, that defines the film itself in all aspects: bizarre and dangerous.
Starting with the content of the film, people were wary if this film would have any kind of plot or point. We even questioned “moronic or genius?” when writing about it earlier in the week. The film is meant to be some kind of artifact, found in a ditch and viewed with that in mind. 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.
Korine’s directing has always been tender and loving. Attention and acceptance are given to all his subjects, no matter what they’re doing, Korine is never one to judge. In “Trash Humpers” Korine is at his most tender, his most focused and his most assured. The film looks messy but every moment is very much thought-out by Korine and his team; from the conjoined twins, attached at the head with pantyhose to the humpers themselves who are very passionate about their destruction, their art.
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. He pays careful attention to streetlights, uses a flash light as lighting at night and films himself walking. Whoever this man behind the camera is, as Korine’s myth wants you to think, he wants to express him and his compadres destruction as something beautiful. Each image seems to be calculated, but Korine would have you believe it was shot on the fly and maybe it was. Maybe that’s just proof of his talent- give him a week and a camera, he’ll give you something to marvel.
“Trash Humpers” proves to be Harmony Korine at his best. He continues along the mature path that he started with “Mister Lonely” and in “Humpers” you will find some of his greatest moments. Most of them are haunting as it should be said this film is disturbing. It’s not quite a horror film but if Korine said he was going for something horrifying, he would most certainly be successful. The film’s images at times can get under your skin, some are still stuck in heads the day after. Yet for all its disturbing content what this amounts to is a very American film.
Different from anything this year and from anything made in a long time, “Trash Humpers” is, at its core, a film about non-conforming and belonging. It's unsettling at times, tender at others and stands alone in its sheer originality. Then in the final moments of the film, Korine comforts his audience and reminds us, as he always has, that beauty can be found anywhere no matter what comes before it. - Frank Rutledge [A]