A video tape starts up and through the wobbly tracking we appear to be watching four old people screeching and laughing whilst 'dry-humping' wheelie bins, shrubbery and trees. It's some sort of home video made by bored kids in rubber masks and too much time on their hands. They occasionally indulge in petty vandalism, usually at night on deserted sports grounds. A TV is flung to the ground, joined by a ghetto blaster. One of the group in a wheelchair is goading the other two on. Fluorescent tubes thrown into the air come down and disintegrate. An abnormal but unfortunately genuine child in school uniform and glasses, attacks a doll. Something happens outside some commercial buildings. More dry-humping. Two grown men joined by the head with tights do stuff with sock puppets. Then we get to meet more of the local neighbourhood. An unpleasant fat man with a trumpet. A nut dressed as a woman reads his poetry on a bridge at night accompanied by cherry bombs. Some dry-humping. A truck yard. How much more can we bear to watch? Waste ground. Can we sit through three fat prostitutes having their bums slapped by the sniggering old men? A torch flickering on a mailbox? Or endless cycling around on BMXs dragging dolls on bits of string and the constant high-pitched cackling laughter that pervades it?
If you've sat through any of Harmony Korine's other films such as Gummo, Trash Humpers won't particularly surprise you. It's very much another exploration of people on the fringes of society, but presented without any form of narrative, plot or coherence. A slice of life film. Korine likes to come up with various stories in interviews, most of which are possibly half-true about insane neighbours and acquaintances, some of whom we meet here. The old people that feature are a couple of Korine's friends, his young wife (Rachel Korine) and Korine himself (usually behind the camera) and all in masks the whole time. They spend much of the film doing entirely random, unplanned actions. The real people in the film are sadly quite bizarre and there's a certain level of exploitation in filming them. But it's all part of the fun. The film ends (and I'm not giving anything away here) with his wife, pushing what is invariably their own baby, along the road in the dark whilst singing. It could be a touching family moment, except that she's in a horrible mask and using the same crackly high-pitched voice from the previous 70 minutes duration.
After the flop that was Mister Lonely, an $8M film that grossed nothing, Korine evidently just wanted to produce something on his own terms without pressure or money or commercialism. The film is literally a number of scenes shot in his home city - Nashville, on cheap standard definition video. The editor, as Harmony is at pains to point out was 70% blind. In fact it was edited using two video recorders with the titles and credits added using a cheap caption generator. It is very effective and gives it a personal quality, like a secret tape that you made with some friends messing around, when you were much younger that you occasionally like to watch on your own. Except Korine made it when he was 36.
In many ways, the film is quite refreshing. It's anarchic, nihilistic and childishly stupid without any demand on the viewer. There is a lot of guff written in reviews about its rejection of commerciality and it's deliberately provocative anti-aesthetic etc. This is just reviewers trying to be mature and professional (whatever that is). It's a silly daft film made for nothing, that you'll either enjoy for what it is or just turn off after 8 minutes, probably bored.
Harmony considered leaving a tape of Trash Humpers somewhere, to simply be found and played. But obviously there are bills to be paid (including nappies and things). You may even like to mosey on down to the website and buy a limited edition, hand-vandalised VHS cassette that may be worth something if and when Harmony sells out in his middle-age and starts making mature mainstream that everyone can enjoy. I do hope not.