Polaroid terror

No, I’m not talking about the recent state of the instant photography company, despite the financial and legal perils of its most recent owner, Tom Petters, CEO of Minnetonka, MN-based Petters Group Worldwide (“Petters Arrest Won’t Change Polaroid Plans”). I’m talking about the examples I’ve run across of Polaroid film and cameras being used as plot devices within horror stories.

  • The title character in Stephen King’s short story “The Sun Dog” (from the collection Four Past Midnight) is a rabid canine that is provoked and comes to life within, and ultimately escapes from, the pictures made by a Polaroid Sun 660 camera with a mind’s eye of its own, given to a 15-year-old boy as a present then co-opted by an unscrupulous New England antiquities (junk) dealer and loan shark, whose comeuppance is the story’s denouement
  • Episode 4 of the first season of the Showtime series Dexter, in which the Ice Truck killer taunts Dexter, first with Polaroids made to echo, in gruesomely truncated fashion, pictures from Dexter’s family album, and then with a picture boldly snapped of Dexter in the company of the man kidnapped by the ITK to serve as the source for the severed limbs in the first pictures (Dexter’s burning of that last image gives a good, if massively subdued, visual to illustrate the Sun Dog’s escape from its two-dimensional world. Have anyone ever burned a Polaroid? Do they always bubble like that?)
  • The “Unruhe” episode of The X-Files (season 4, #4), which posits a killer whose use of the instant camera creates pictures of people tormented by “howlers,” menacing spirits visible to the killer and his camera but otherwise unseen, whose presence provoke the killer to take action to “ease the pain” — the disquiet, or unrest, of the episode title translated from German — of individuals, including Agent Scully, as in the illustration at the top (“Unruhe” was selected as one of the most “nightmare-inducing episodes ever” of this Fox series–see number 6 on this scroll.)
There is something eerie about this material, isn’t there? I’ve got to haul out some of King’s verbiage; although the climactic scene is over the top, it doesn’t lack for vividness, and he does a good job of articulating the uncanny quality of the self-developing universe within those high tech envelopes. Let me know of other examples of Polaroid terror.

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