Tuesday, December 3, 2013


For my next lost review, Trent Reznor's 1993 short film, Broken. Since writing this review, it seems that Reznor himself is trying to upload this film to the Internet, but video hosting sites keep taking it down due to its extreme content. Still shocking after twenty years? That's why I'm reviewing it. That's also why, sorry, no link.

Good luck finding this one. Trent Reznor has never authorized the public release of this music video collection; but bootleg copies abound. Like most transgressive cinema, time is not very kind to this 1993 short subject; but I remember seeing it at a party years ago and, at the time, this was a film that went where the splatter films of the eighties feared to tread. Today, it can be seen as a precursor to the so-called “torture porn” films (Saw and Hostel being the most prominent of this sub-genre). But in many ways, Broken is a purer thing than what’s being put in multiplexes today. No dialogue beyond song lyrics and no plot beyond the bare minimum needed to begin the atrocity exhibition.

A killer, about to be hung for his crimes, remembers the man he abducted and tortured to death. The scene jumps back to the abduction, followed by the man being restrained in a basement. There is a television set in the room and the killer watches Nine Inch Nails music videos to get himself in the mood for murder. The film then jumps between Trent Reznor’s dark dreams put to music and the stark brutality of one man torturing another man to death for no apparent reason other than the thrill of it.

The highlight of the short film (if such a term is appropriate for something so steeped in darkness) is the video for “Happiness in Slavery”, wherein legendary extreme performance artist Bob Flannagan calmly places himself in a torture device designed to turn human beings into raw meat. The basement torture scenes between music videos are purposefully grainy and give the illusion of being from an actual snuff film. The whole film has that beautifully grotesque allure that compels you to watch, even as you know there is nothing socially redeeming about witnessing make-believe atrocities.

I suppose this film could go under the heading of “giving the audience what they want”: torture, degradation and brutality, without the plot and dialogue that tends to be so badly written in other films of this sub-genre. The entertainment value is largely a matter of personal taste; but if you’re looking for something transgressive, dark and more than a little gross; you could do worse than tracking down a copy of Broken.

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