“I was practically hate-fucked into existence.”

That title should give you an idea what to expect. Trash Fire is angry, ugly, brutal, and occasionally quite powerful in its sometimes adolescent but always righteous nihilism.

Owen (Adrian Grenier – actually really good and making me forget Entourage for a while) and Isabel (Angela Trimbur – just as good with some killer reaction shots) are as a bitter couple that spend most of the first act making caustic remarks at one another. He’s a near-sociopath with a drinking problem who’s seizures seem to ignite a caring complex in her hypocritical brain. When she becomes pregnant, he tells her:

“Getting pregnant is not an achievement. Crack whores have babies. All you have to do is spread your legs and let someone jizz in you.”

Which, along with some other shit, sends her crying to her room. For some reason, this sets off something good in Owen, and he decides he wants to be a father – and a nicer person. He agrees to introduce Isabel to what’s left of his family. His mother and father died in a fire, and all that’s left is his grandmother (who is somehow much worse than he is) and his badly burned sister. Though the new, worse digs actually make the central couple kind of nice to each other, their newfound psychological improvement is not met by the world in kind. Things go downhill quickly.

Look, this is not an easy film. The writing is very funny but consistently mean spirited. The cinematography is often striking but also alienating – a ton of the worst shit is said directly to the camera in a single mid shot, the harsh digital image making you feel uncomfortably close. And as the film gradually turns to horror, our attempts to (hopefully) find sympathy for these people is punished.

But, by God, did I not find it incredibly entertaining. I’m on a roll with this certain type of bitter-bastard cinema. Writer/Director Richard Bates Jr. seemingly despise everything, though here he’s specifically attacking the way hate (of oneself, the world, religion, each other) can breed community. All of these people have found solace in some form of active destruction, and just as Owen and Isabel start to escape from that, hate brings them crashing back down.

It’s a miserable lesson, and one perhaps tainted by the unsurprising conclusion, but maybe that’s part of the point; misery is not satisfying, it’s just sustaining.


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