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Review: Us and Trash Humpers

  • Us: Jordan Peele’s followup to Get Out (which I have not yet seen, though I intend to remedy that situation very soon) is satire in its purest form, a razor-sharp condemnation of the materialism and consumerism that drive the American dream. Our culture has essentially decided that one’s worth is determined by ownership—what one possesses, what one lacks, and what one covets—and Us thoroughly explores how such superficial distinctions have the power to tear society apart. Of course, that message would collapse under its own weight were it not supported by an engaging narrative; fortunately, Peele crafts a surreal, suspenseful, and stylish bodysnatcher thriller that stands firmly on its own merits, even divorced from its intended meaning. Boasting an economically-structured yet thematically-rich screenplay, captivating performances (Winston Duke is especially impressive, delivering welcome moments of levity that feel perfectly natural despite the tense atmosphere), and unforgettable imagery (one particular shot—an overhead angle of our protagonists walking on a beach, casting long, distorted shadows across the sand—is so dense with deeper significance that I can’t dissect any further without spoiling several plot developments), Us is an early contender for the best genre film of 2019—and this is a promising year!

  • Trash Humpers:  Like John Waters and noted fan Werner Herzog (in his younger, hungrier days, at least), Harmony Korine has developed a bit of a reputation as a… confrontational director, to phrase it generously, and this exercise in cinematic anarchy is probably be the magnum opus in a body of work absolutely packed with deliberate schlock. There is no story here, no production value, no greater purpose; instead, this “movie” (I hesitate to call it that, since it only technically qualifies as one) features breaking and entering, destruction of property, tap dancing, the philosophical observations of raving lunatics, murder, and—true to the title—pantomimed intercourse with numerous inanimate objects, including garbage cans. Shot on grainy VHS and starring a quartet of weirdos clad in grotesque rubber masks, it resembles something you might discover in a landfill… or in a serial killer’s basement. Did I like it? Irrelevant; it wasn’t made to be enjoyed, but rather endured. I knew that when I purchased the ticket; apparently, however, a decent chunk of the viewers at the screening I attended missed the memo, judging by the sheer number of walkouts and exclamations of disgust.

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