The Broken Movie

Last week, after Coilhouse’s crushing loss to neonatal mush pushers among others, an impromptu battle began, based on the desire to unleash risque and tasteless content, which had theretofore been stifled in the hopes that Those Who Were Judging Us would not be horrified by our dribblings, which they may have been regardless of our self-censorship. I did not participate, for I am above such puerile displays of gross indecency.

Nadya’s wink to Bob Flanagan did, however, serve to bring to mind a formative event in the formation of my alt-culture understanding, which you see embedded above. The rumor of “the Broken movie” came into existence almost simultaneously with the release of the album and it was not long before its legend had grown into dark and monumental proportions. Chief amongst the details of these rumors was that the film was interspersed with scenes from a real, honest-to-god snuff film which, it was further postulated, was from Trent Reznor’s personal collection of snuff films which he most likely kept in a vault of some sort, no doubt situated in the catacombs under the abandoned warehouse in the industrial park that he called home. Or maybe just in a box under his bed in his L.A. mansion. Who knows. What we did know, my friends and I, was that we needed to find this movie.

It would be many years before that would actually come to pass and, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I would get to see The Broken Movie in its entirety, after having already seen most of it on the official release of Closure. Mr. Flanagan, of course, plays a significant role in the film, being as he is the centerpiece of the video for Happiness in Slavery. The Broken Movie did not disappoint and, while it was obvious that there was no way what I was watching was a snuff film, it was still rather shocking at the time. Years later, scarred from my time on the net, I suppose it holds less sway. Some of its imagery has, disturbingly, almost become mundane; but only some. Watching it again there is still plenty here that makes me wince. Time and knowledge have, thankfully, not managed to wash away completely the feeling of watching something, perhaps, taboo.

Author’s Note: Nothing linked in this post is safe for work. Some of it is not safe for life.

15 Responses to “The Broken Movie”

  1. Trevor Says:

    Heh. I remember buying a bootleg video cassette of that off of someone on I dunno where they got it, but it was long before any official release was available. Of course it’s now worthless. Who even has a VCR these days? It sits, unwatched, on a shelf next to The Hunger, Doom Generation, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Nosferatu, and countless anime videos.

  2. Stagger Leah Says:

    Thank you Ross! As a fledgling NIN fan (I only started listening when “With Teeth” came out) I have not had a chance to see this yet. Much appreciated!

  3. jwz Says:

    The cool thing is that the torrents of both Broken and the DVD-quality rip of Closure (which had only been officially released on VHS) were seeded by Reznor himself, with only very transparent deniability.

  4. The F'n Jem'Hadar Says:

    My memory of watching this was in my sophomore year of college. I had just turned it on, my door was open, and my neighbors started to file in after they heard the massive distortions go off from the music. No one ever looked at me quite the same after that…

  5. Tequila Says:

    I had a High School friend who was about as hardcore of an NIN fan as they came at the time. Like a rat hunting for food he had the knack for finding all this kinda NIN stuff. I admittedly only had a passing interest in NIN at the time (this was when every damn college kid had an NIN sticker on their car…) but always enjoyed the build up, hype, and taboo nature of these gems. That’s the real fun of this and while yeah the film may have scenes that are now eclipsed by episodes of CSI, Bones, Law & Order, and assorted true crime series it’s still never been one upped by any band or artists working in mainstream music. That’s kinda sad but also a testament to Trent’s continued dedication to having a great time doing what he does.

    Still didn’t like Year Zero though :P

  6. paola Says:

    Talking about snuff, you could write something about the delightful movie TESIS by Alejandro AmenĂ bar – extra low budget, perfect direction, loads of black humour, and, generally, a morality lesson about voyeurism and the reign of appearances over truth. So cute.

  7. Paul Komoda Says:

    It’s bad enough to put a camera up anyone’s nostril for any reason at all, but to be greeted by that writhing, glistening reception party is, to quote the Pink Elephant song, “…really too much for me!”

    Oh yes, now to watch that Broken Movie….

  8. db Says:

    Director Peter Christopherson (better known as half of Coil) writes about this film at some length in his Wire Invisible Jukebox from August of this year. Funny trivia: Trent gave VHS copies of this to friends of his, and each one had some kinda code on it so he could tell who eventually bootlegged it: the copy that was floating around in the ’90s (allegedly) came from Gibby Haynes.

  9. db Says:

    This is off-topic, but I think what Christopherson says about violence is probably best exemplified by comparing the Broken movie with his recent video for the Coil song Ostia (The Death of Pasolini), which can be found on the Blu-Ray edition of Pasolini’s film Salo. Probably even less safe for work.

  10. Slave screams « Strange Ink Says:

    […] October 1, 2009 — strangeink Coilhouse conjures up a blast from the past with Trent Reznor’s apocalyptic Broken Movie. Before I had […]

  11. db Says:

    Terribly sorry, wrong link. Ostia by Coil.

  12. DS Says:

    What a memory trip this post was! Any mention of the Broken movie immediately reminds me of how I bought a terribly wrapped bootleg of it when I was in high school and was just BLOWN AWAY when I watched it, such a terrible and exciting mix of emotions. I remember propagating those rumors, much to my embarrassment now. Though in defense of the 16 year old me, I simply could not wrap my head around how those little pieces of “snuff” could be anything other than real. You know, I think I still have the VHS somewhere. Reading about it now, I can’t help but wonder what version I bought back then (1994). Now I feel an overwhelming compulsion to dig it out of storage.

  13. Tequila Says:

    Kinda curious now if the low quality of bootlegged VHS copies made the experience more visceral since no doubt the brutal scenes of torture HAD to look more “real” then for a variety of reasons. A snuff video always looked more true to life in those days than the visual clarity of today where you can just see how fake it is.

  14. Mer Says:

    The murk and hiss of my third generation bootleg definitely added a +5 to the creepy factor. It holds up well, though. Especially the Flanagan/SRL video.

  15. badluckshadow13 Says:

    I love that movie! A couple years ago, I spent like a week tying to find a replica of that “Trespassers Will Be Eaten” sign… gave up and painted one.

    @db yeah, isn’t that why Trent mentioned her in the thank you for the next album? Kind of a sarcastic way of letting her know he knew.

    Actually how Trent knew is pretty interesting. Because he only made so many copies, he cut each of them a little different, static between scenes in places in one it wasn’t in another. That way when it leaked, he’d know exactly who’d done it.

    I should point out the video you’ve embedded appears to be the hi-def, Trent Piratebay’d that himself as an Xmas gift to fans one year.