It thunks especially hard precisely because Korine has, in the past, proven himself a totally canny, capable provocateur, whose work more truthfully reflected the respective spirits of their age. Trash Humpers, from 2009, cut against the ascent of the sleek digital age with a crummy, lo-fi, shot-on-VHS experiment in which he and three friends wear garish rubber masks, eat pancakes slathered in dish soap, and, yes, hump big bags of garbage.
Sleeker, but no less honest, was 2012’s Spring Breakers, which cast Disney Channel veterans Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens as teenage girls gone wild, drawn into the thrall by a gangster named Alien (James Franco). For all its stupidity and excess, Spring Breakers knew that the culture was becoming increasingly obsessed with surfaces, and not substance, and it made a sexy virtue of its own hollowness. Even the abandoned Fight Harm, conceived during the epoch of Tom Green, Jackass, Jerry Springer, and the WWE’s Attitude Era, was honest about its ambitions: feeding the twinned desires for violence and self-harm.
There are moments of this astute, inventive Korine in Aggro Dr1ft. (Who else would ever make this movie, really?) A severed head dripping blocky bits of blue blood, BO’s wife twerking in a fishnet two piece—these are unmistakably singular, even poetic images. But they are too few, and far between. Even at 80 minutes, the film is less of a sensory assault than a slog, as eyes and mind quickly acclimatize to its ostensibly alienating images. At the risk of sounding like a philistine, shouldn’t a film costarring a neon-orange Travis Scott smoking a blunt on a speedboat full of mercenaries in demon masks be, well, more fun?
Aggro Dr1ft’s post-movie ambitions may ultimately be vindicated, if only by default. As of this writing, it has not secured a traditional distributor, and rumors abound that Korine may distribute the film himself, via the EDGLRD website. (It will certainly play better streaming inside a vintage RealPlayer window, or projected on a wall of a nightclub during a rave fueled by sketchy ecstasy, or bath salts.)
“The old world is over,” BO declares early on. Maybe he, and Korine, are right. Maybe the movies are on life support, slogging through some long interregnum, waiting for some new, fresh form to replace it. But Aggro Dr1ft isn’t it. It exists at the dull (like, literally very boring) side of a dying medium. Not at the bleeding edge of some new one. When that new form, whatever it is, arrives, Korine will likely carve out a fruitful role expanding its visual palette. But with Aggro Dr1ft he broke his own golden rule: He threw the first punch.