Trash Humpers

I told my brother I was reviewing a film called “Trash Humpers,” and he said, “Oh, they’re probably using ‘hump’ to mean carrying or hauling, like, ‘I gotta hump this trash out to the landfill.'” And I told him that knowing what I do about the filmmaker, no, it’s probably about people who literally hump trash. In fact, I said, I should be grateful if the trash humping is the least unpleasant thing that happens.

The filmmaker is Harmony Korine, who wrote Larry Clark’s “Kids” and “Ken Park” and made his own “Gummo,” “Julien Donkey-Boy,” and “Mister Lonely.” He’s a provocateur, a mix of John Waters, Werner Herzog, and Lars von Trier, only (in my opinion) not as talented as any of them. “Trash Humpers” is not only pointless but, it would seem, intentionally pointless, a tedious slog that appears to have been made for the express purpose of annoying the audience. It succeeds at that, so I guess I have to give it a good review.

The title characters are three, or sometimes four, elderly people who wander the streets of an unnamed city humping trash cans and screeching. It is unclear what, if any, sexual pleasure they derive from the humping. They don’t speak much. Mostly they just make screeching noises and destroy stuff (discarded electronics, an abandoned house, and so forth). Sometimes they peep through people’s windows. One of them videotapes their activities, and the movie is in the form of “found footage,” meant to look like a battered old VHS tape. (In that case, Korine shouldn’t have shot it in widescreen, but never mind.)

These senior citizens, by the way, are played by young actors in ghastly prosthetic makeup. I’m not sure we’re ever really meant to buy them as old people; they make no attempt to walk or move like anything other than young actors. As they wander the city, they encounter several other vaguely repulsive figures: a fat kid in a necktie and glasses whom they teach to beat up a baby doll; a pair of twins conjoined, sort of, at the head; a white-trash loudmouth who tells racist jokes. But don’t worry — despite these diversions, the film always comes back to its core message of trash humping. Korine has a vision, and that vision includes a lot of trash humping, and he does not fail to convey that vision. To add dialogue or a story or character names would only detract from the purity of Korine’s central conceit, i.e., that he wanted to make a movie where the only thing that ever happens is that some old people hump trash cans.

What’s disappointing, even a little surprising, is that “Trash Humpers” isn’t gross or obscene or shocking. It’s just BORING. When it got to the scene where some obese topless hookers are fondling an old man while one of them sings “Silent Night,” I thought, “Ah, yes. Here we go.” It’s distasteful, but at least it evokes a reaction. But it’s the only scene like that. The rest of the movie isn’t nearly as weird or interesting or repellent. Korine’s going for a different kind of provocation here, daring the audience to put up with his mindless idiocy. What he achieves is kind of a neat trick: The film is only 78 minutes long, yet it’s the longest movie I’ve ever seen.

F (1 hr., 18 min.; Not Rated, probably R for some nudity and sexuality, a lot of profanity.)