Top 5 Most Disturbing Nine Inch Nails Videos! (Totally NSFW!)

Top 5 Most Disturbing Nine Inch Nails Videos! (Totally NSFW!)

Fans from all around the world have flocked to Los Angeles to wave goodbye to Nine Inch Nails, playing (UPDATED with new info) three final shows this coming week: Sunday at the Echoplex, Tuesday at the Fonda and Wednesday at the Wiltern. Other than being bummed I didn't get tickets to these shows (not for lack of trying; the flood of highly organized NIN superfans pretty much caused the entire Internet to shut down once tickets went on sale--still not entirely convinced they weren't somehow behind that Gmail outage the other day), I can't help but think back to my youth circa The Downward Spiral, when Nine Inch Nails were the coolest band around, producing the kind of music that you dearly hoped that your parents would be pissed off about, even if they didn't actually care.

But for as anarchic as Trent Reznor's lyrics may have been ("gotta listen to your big time hard line bad luck fist fuck," "Wish"), their videos were frequently freaky, creepy and otherwise unsettling. (And essentially the perfect verboten entertainment fodder for 12-year-old boys, even if Reznor assuredly had greater artistic goals in mind.)

So let's head into the void one last time and count down the five most disturbing Nine Inch Nails video of all-time. Mostly (extremely!) NSFW--there's going to be some penises, people.

1992: "Pinion"

The Broken EP launched a lot of disturbing videos, like this one, directed by Eric Goode and Serge Becker. This video just seemed kind of funny to me the first time I saw it, but now I can see that there's a definite eerie effect, caused more by the sparse instrumental track than the Shocking Twist Ending. But it's also still kind of funny. (I mean, come on.)

1989: "Down In It"

The video for this Pretty Hate Machine single is actually pretty tame and feels like very much a product of its time (not really a compliment), but is worth including for the bizarre fallout that surrounded the video. A camera mix-up involving the closing scenes with "dead" Trent ended up launching an FBI investigation, and this Hard Copy story, which is more truly disturbing than anything else on this list. "More like Nine Inch Noise." "Trent Resnor." Hard to believe this show was ever actually on TV. Now we have classy programs like TMZ.

1992: "Help Me I Am In Hell"

This is more of your classic kind of spooky. It's not over the top (well, not compared to what's to come on this list), but it neatly juxtaposes the fun of eating a nice meal with the unmitigated horrors of insect swarms and old men in bondage gear. Another Broken instrumental directed by Goode and Becker, the cutaways are what really make this truly uncomfortable to watch.

1992: "Happiness In Slavery"

Seriously, who thought this was a good idea? Performance artist Bob Flanagan strips naked, then gets his skin flayed by a machine--sound too subtle? Don't worry, he's ground into fertilizer, too! But wait, what's that--is Trent next? (Another Shocking Twist Ending!) Flanagan died four years after this video was filmed, but at least we'll always have memories of his junk.

1994: "Closer"

Oh yes. The one disturbing video to rule them all. While not as graphic as "Happiness In Slavery," this Mark Romanek-directed clip of what's still Nine Inch Nails' most recognizable song also had much more of a cultural impact, forever haunting the dreams of a legion of disaffected youth. And rather than slowly building towards one creepy thing, there are about a hundred creepy things going on at once. Crucified monkeys. Jesus masks. Genitalia diagrams. Seems kind of quaint now, but the effect this had on the mid-'90s populace was undeniable--contributing to a general cultural desensitization that's now made watching a video of women eating each other's poop a fun way to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon. The mystique caused by the TV edit of the video--which replaces the more vivid imagery with old timey "scene missing" cards--sort of added to the weirdness, but this is "most disturbing," not "most possibly disturbing."

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