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NIN’s ‘Came Back Haunted’ Video: Couldn’t David Lynch Have Just Recycled ‘Twin Peaks’ Footage?

Agent Dale Cooper Trent Reznor
ABC / Sean Gardner, Getty Images

When Nine Inch Nails announced David Lynch would direct the video for ‘Came Back Haunted’ (out today, available below), the lead single on their forthcoming album ‘Hesitation Marks,’ most people were intrigued but not exactly surprised. After all, Lynch and NIN mastermind Trent Reznor share a certain, shall we say, dark aesthetic, and Reznor produced the soundtrack for Lynch’s 1997 film ‘Lost Highway.’

Creepy guy with a camera, creepy guy with a synth: Theirs is a pairing as natural as black coffee and cherry pie, and with that simile in mind, let’s return to ‘Came Back Haunted’ and ready ourselves for some serious geeking out. Milk-less java and fruit-filled baked goods are perhaps the only weaknesses plaguing one Special Agent Dale Cooper, the hero of ‘Twin Peaks,’ Lynch’s beloved and beguiling ABC mystery series from the early ’90s.

‘Twin Peaks’ ended after just two seasons, and in the final episode, Agent Cooper — played by Kyle MacLachlan as a symbol of purity and unflappable virtue, his love of caffeine and sweets notwithstanding — ventures into the so-called Black Lodge, a place in the woods from which all evil emanates. It’s a garish hell decorated with red curtains and a checkered floor and inhabited by backward-talking little people, giants and, of course, Laura Palmer, the wayward prom queen whose murder the series hinges on.

The finale is confusing, even by ‘Twin Peaks’ standards, but the prevailing theory is that Cooper doesn’t make it out of the lodge. The version of him seen in the closing seconds, bashing his head against a bathroom mirror in the titular town’s cozy Great Northern hotel, is actually an evil doppelganger. The real Cooper is cooped up with the weirdos in the red-curtained room, wondering when everyone will stop speaking in riddles and bring him some goddamn dessert.

Were Cooper to write a song about the situation — and who knows, had there been a third season, he might have done just that — he’d be hard-pressed to come up with one more appropriate, sonically or lyrically, than NIN’s ‘Came Back Haunted.’

The lyrics are all about going over to “the other side” and coming back irrevocably changed, and the second stanza of the first verse even features some ‘Twin Peaks’-esque imagery:

Now I’ve got something you have to see
They put something inside of me
The smile is red and its eyes are black
I don’t think I’ll be coming back

Doppelgangers have gray eyes — close enough to black — and the “smile is red” line calls to mind Laura Palmer, who rocks crimson lips and a slinky black dress when she’s kicking it with the Black Lodge gang. And then there’s Reznor’s main refrain:

I don’t believe it
I had to see it
I came back — I came back haunted
C-C-C-came back haunted

Cooper to the max. It’s enough to make overly analytical, conspiracy-loving ‘Twin Peaks’ fans (and really, there are no other kind) suspect Trent wrote the tune after spending some rare moments of downtime re-watching the show, trying to make sense of the ending.

Lynch’s video doesn’t reference the series, but it boasts a similar feel. The potentially seizure-inducing cuts that actually necessitate a disclaimer are similar to those used in the finale’s lodge sequence (watch it below), and the quick flashes of a mangled white face and what appears to be a young girl in a gas mask evoke the grotesqueness and tainted innocence so central to the series.

‘Came Back Haunted’ is a fine video, but if the rambling analysis above is even the slightest bit accurate, and the song amounts to ‘Cooper’s Lament,’ Lynch might have saved himself a whole lot of trouble and simply mashed up the two videos below. It’s a wonder no one’s done it yet.

Watch Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Came Back Haunted’ Video

Watch the ‘Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge Sequence

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