In 1989, as I was trading in my Tony-Hawk-in-my-mind/Flock-of-Seagulls-on-my-head haircut for an equally poorly executed Sid Vicious rats nest, I became aware of a new band that rebranded me. At the age of twelve, I wasn’t completely sure what girls were all about yet, and I sure as shit didn’t know anything about music. I just knew that I was angry for some suburban reason, and punk and metal were pretty much the only things I had heard that had enough ferocity to quell my thirst for getting sweaty and bumping into people. What the hell could some doofus with a keyboard possibly know about my pre-teen angst? I was skeptical.
When Pretty Hate Machine first spun in my presence, the band was described to me thusly: “Imagine if The Cure grew spikes,” and I find that fairly accurate. I was soon bowing down before the one I now served, at last having gotten just what I deserved. As my pimples became a guitar, NIN taught wonderful lessons that every adolescent should learn. Such as: God is Dead, and songs about fucking like an animal will still get radio play as long as you can dance to it. NIN is the perfect drug, and like drugs, it’s good to mix things.
So in that spiteful spirit I also turned to film to escape from the 90s, and its subsequent bad sequels. I’ll be damned if NIN didn’t follow me. What follows is a list of the Top 5 films that every NIN fan should see before they self-destruct.
Natural Born Killers – I’m pretty sure that if I watched this film right now, I wouldn’t like it as much, but when Beavis and Butthead ruled the television, the nihilistic serial murders of Mickey and Malory ruled the cinemas. Oliver somehow had the stones to put together one of the most killer punk/rap/folk sound track albums of the decade that still holds up today. The scene in the desert is when Mickey learns he just wants something he can never have…don’t we all?
The Cube – No, not Gleaming the Cube (that’s for another list). This is the only film on the list with no direct connection to Nine Inch Nails, however it somehow captures the feeling of it, at least for me. It is the cyberpunk conundrum of a group of people trapped in a prison-like death puzzle that must somehow learn to trust one another and escape the mysterious hell they wake up in. If that sounds intriguing… it is! Check out this hidden Canadian gem! I cannot vouch for its crappy sequels so make sure you stay pure.
Gone Girl – Affleck is very hit-or-miss for me. This movie is as well, though it contains the most brilliant and cinematic murder scene this side of Psycho. Poor Neil Patrick Harris gets his throat slit, and yes, it’s quite gory, but what really makes it disturbing is Reznor’s soundtrack. It’s as if the eerie and iconic Hitchcockian shower scene violins have been plugged into an amplifier dialed up to 11 then back masked and played back at the wrong speed. In fact, now that I think of it, that could be exactly what he did.
The Social Network – I was excited for this film for many reasons. Being an internet junkie, it was validating to see one of the major inventions of my era featured on the big screen. The poster alone sparked memes upon memes proving once again that it’s tough to argue with good graphic design. Aaron Sorkin’s dialog and David Fincher’s directing coupled with a pre-Lex Luthor Jessie Eisenberg sold me, but it was that Trent Reznor soundtrack that really made this film likeable. He walked away with an Oscar trophy, which I want to believe hangs on a little noose from the celling of his office.
The Crow – I do lists like this a lot, and if I’m being honest I must admit that this film worms its way onto many of them. I love this movie. It is the perfect cocktail of pre-emo, goth, punk, metal, lovelorn male-power-fantasy-that-somehow-plays-as-violently-romantic, all topped with the most delicious cheese. Memorable one-liners and performances abound (including what was sadly the tragic last performance of Brandon Lee), and The Crow has arguably the best soundtrack of the 90’s. “Dead Souls” is a haunting entry from NIN and probably the best cut on that record. I do recommend you seek out the source graphic novel by James O’Barr, which is a slightly different and more aggressive flavor than the film…but I heard you like it rough.