NIN's Broken at 20: The Movie Trent Reznor Didn't Want You to See
Fans of Nine Inch Nails and loud music know the story of the Broken EP, but for those less familiar, here is the Reader's Digest version: Upset with his record label Trent Reznor recorded, in secret, an album of loud aggressive rock completely unlike his first album (1989's Pretty Hate Machine). He would eventually win a Grammy for the track "Wish" before finding the biggest success of his career with 1994's The Downward Spiral.
There is a lesser-known story concerning Broken, a story that survived the '90s and early '00s as hearsay on messages boards and 8th-generation VHS dubs found at record conventions. It was the story of a movie, also titled Broken, that was so vile it would never see the light of day.
And then in 2006, everything changed. The movie that was supposed to be the stuff of nightmares suddenly appeared online.
Sharing its name with the EP, Broken can be viewed as an anthology film. It features music videos for five of the EP's six songs surrounded by a narrative concerning a man being tortured to death and the execution of his tormentor. We're not talking about your average Hollywood horror show either: With its low-budget look the video it could easily be mistaken for a snuff film.
Once completed, Trent Reznor made the decision not to release it. The feeling was that the visual content would be so controversial it would overshadow the music. The only copies of it that existed in the wild came from a bootleg that Reznor had given to a friend. (Trent would later point the finger at Butthole Surfers front man Gibby Haynes.)
It's no surprise that the movie went from an analog form of bootlegging to a digital one. After it was uploaded to the Internet (most likely by Reznor himself) it passed from torrent to torrent, eventually ending up all over the information superhighway if you were willing to look for it.
But should you?