A FILM REVIEW BY ANDREW NOVAK
Harmony Korine has insisted that his film Trash Humpers isn’t a horror movie, saying, “it’s simply an American movie…probably in some ways…the most American movie ever made.” He also suggested that it should be part of the public school curriculum in the U.S. I agree, it is probably the most American movie ever made. And there’s no doubt that it should be screened in high schools across the country. But Trash Humpers is indeed a horror movie, and a damn good one. Maybe even the best one. It oozes with every essential horror ingredient: blood, sleaze, violence, dread, grime, dark hilarity, and heart. To me, it is a horror classic on par with the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
You might ask what a film called Trash Humpers has to offer. Well, trashcan humping for starters. Lots of it. (Korine says he didn’t want to mislead anyone with the title.) It’s the worn out VHS-camcorder-video story of a group of geriatric sociopaths running amok in Nashville, Tennessee. They sometimes look more like burn victims.
Many of the film’s scenes are both classic and timeless, such as one in which the old people smash a TV screen with hammers and laugh about it. Or another in which they are tap dancing in velcro shoes atop a broken CD player—and laughing about it. They also break cinder blocks in a parking lot. In one memorable moment, the character Momma (played by Rachel Korine) teaches the group’s friend—a cackling kid dressed in a funeral suite—how to hide razorblades inside of apples (“real deep so no motherfucker can see it”) for distribution to unsuspecting people. Of course, this is all after the young boy beats a baby doll with a hammer for several minutes while the elderly, ever-laughing protagonists egg him on. There is so much cackling in this movie. There is no musical score. There is no discernable narrative either.
Trash Humpers features some of Korine’s cinematic watermarks, like the constant repetition of bizarre phrases that invoke thoughts of mental illness. “Make it, make it, don’t take it,” the character Hervé (played by Harmony Korine) often yelps from behind the camera. Scenes of vaudevillian grotesquery abound in Trash Humpers as well.
For as chaotic and disorienting as Trash Humpers can be, it does contain moments of serious existential reflection, like when a raving man in a French maid outfit proclaims: “We’re no better off than ravioli that’s tossed.” Most importantly, the film, as a whole, provokes a viscous feeling of genuine heart-attack dread. It’s a rare thing to experience, especially if you watch a lot of horror movies. Korine builds a uniquely grave sense that nobody was behind the wheel during the making of Trash Humpers, that literally anything could happen during the film’s seventy-eight minutes, and that “literally anything” will be horrific, sickening, and well beyond the possibility of prediction. Korine compounds this feeling by putting the shitbag main characters in contact with babies and dogs. The mind reels while nonsensical folk ditties stream from the protagonists’ wrinkled mouths ad nauseam. Harmony Korine has stated that his initial intent was to leave VHS copies of the movie around in public places or even stuff them into police station mailboxes.
The Momma character has a really vile looking neck. The characters make a lot of grandiose speeches that don’t go anywhere. Want to see a guy rubbing his boner on a refrigerator in a dingy basement? Didn’t think so. But you should. This movie is something rare, something authentic and genuinely terrifying. Harmony Korine is wrong, Trash Humpers is a horror film. It’s a masterpiece of the genre, the paragon of the found footage technique. You will never see experience anything else like it.
Andrew Novak is a journalist and news editor in Washington, DC. He likes to read. He likes to write. He likes to take pictures with his camera. His fiction has appeared in Fluland, Shotgun Honey, Dark Moon Digest, Out of the Gutter Online, and Bizarro Central.