Trash Humpers is a 2009 film directed by Harmony Korine that was shot completely on worn VCR home video. There are many things that the film comments on in its entirety, but the choice of the seemingly archaic VHS tape came as a result of our modern obsession with technology and the concept that everything has to be perfect; that which is not can simply be deleted. We have entered an age where if we do not like a photograph, we can choose to get rid of it forever, wiping its existence from both our memory card’s and our memory. However, as a child of the 1980’s, Korine remembers his first camera, given to him by his father, noting how he used to reuse the tape over and over again. He commented in an interview with Chris Bilton that “There was something interesting about certain images or scenes bubbling up to the surface”, whereby there is “something sinister” about its unexpected nature and grainy reality.
The idea for the film came about whilst walking his dog late at night in the back alleys of his hometown ofNashvillewhere Korine encountered trash bins strewn across the ground in what he imagined as a war zone. Overhead lights beamed down upon the trash in a Broadway-style that Korine found very dramatic. They began to resemble human form, beaten, abused and “very humpable”. Korine remembered, as a teenager growing up in Nashville, a group of elderly peeping toms who would come out at night. He has described them as “the neighborhood boogeymen who worked at Krispy Kreme and would wrap themselves in shrubbery, cover themselves with dirt, and peep through the windows of other neighbours.”
The film has been described as perversely beautiful, which may have come as a result of the original conception of the film, this being as a group of photographs. Korine would go out late at night and dress his assistants in crude masks that resembled burn victims. He would then proceed to photograph them fornicating with trash and vandalising various things using the worst quality cameras he could find. It was only when the photos came out so disturbing that the idea for a movie became conceivable.
Watching Trash Humpers will surely be a stand-alone experience. The juxtaposition of the elderly exteriors of the characters at once clashes with their youthful vigor and youthful mischief whereby the audience will watch in an unbelieving trance as they defecate, smash televisions, let off firecrackers and tap dance. His characters act in a way that has been perceived as violent, but he has turned this on its head; rather than embracing violence as acts that are committed without purpose, he instead uses the film as almost an “ode to vandalism”. He has commented that there can be a creative beauty in the mayhem and destruction created by violence, and his comedic characters act with almost a vaudevillian horror element to what they do. Importantly, he ensures that his characters are having a good time in what they are doing, marking their territory amongst his elaborate portrait of the “American Landscape”. Just as lamp posts serve a purpose in lighting up the gutter, the characters of Korine’s film light up the deep set flaws of the voyeuristic American society.