Dumpster

Hospital Dumpster Divers (2020)

“There are only three things you must never, and I mean never, forget. I call it The Commandments of Waste Recycling. The first commandment: thou shalt never be sloppy with the recycling. The second commandment: be progressive, be effective. The third commandment: sloppiness in recycling shall never occur!”  

The speaker is a hospital’s Cleaning Manager (Ingar Helge Gimie), showing Rasmus (Thomas Aske Berg) the ropes before leaving his young trainee in charge of the disposal of medical, biological and toxic waste over the weekend – and in Anders Elsrud Hultgreen’s Hospital Dumpster Divers, as in any fairytale, you just know that this emphatic prohibition, handed down from master to apprentice, is there to be transgressed, and that much sloppiness will inevitably follow. 

Like Jim Muro’s Street Trash (1987) and Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers (2009), the very title of Hultgreen’s short film advertises its trash sensibilities, as Rasmus’ extremely slipshod approach to his duties leads to more and more disgusting mess. Ultimately the microwave incinerator where Rasmus has dumped all this garbage will spawn a toxic creature – think the bastard lovechild of the baby from David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) and Belial from Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case (1982) – which leaves in its slimy trail yet more of the blood and gore and icky toxic residue that Rasmus was supposed to be cleaning up in the first place. 

Where Hultgreen’s previous films Dawn (Morgenrøde, 2014) and Devonian Fever Trip (2019) are brooding apocalyptic mood pieces, minimalist in form and glacial in pace, Hospital Dumpster Divers represents a complete departure, diving into the scuzziest depths of psychotronic bad taste, and covering itself in the filthiest detritus of body horror, as our hapless hero, anxious about his shortcomings as an orderly and indeed as a potential father, repeatedly fails to keep things clean. 

Lensed by DP Geir M.V. Anderssen at dutch angles filtered through sickly hues of purple, blue and yellow, and cut to the spasmodic beats and doom-laden drones of Martin Isak Bråthen’s electronic score, this is a short designed to make the viewer feel queasy – and the wide-eyed, cat-snarling ‘monkey’ at its centre, birthed of garbage and poisons (and expertly wrangled by puppeteer Monika Solheim), is an avatar of Rasmus’ own unruly nature, creating anarchy and violence wherever it goes. It is as though The Sorceror’s Apprentice had been reinvented as a chaotic creature feature that oozes trash-tastic trauma and hallucinatory abjection.

© Anton Bitel