The X-Files

Season 4 Episode 4


Aired Monday 9:00 PM Oct 27, 1996 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
302 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Several kidnappings of young women linked by distorted photographs lead Mulder and Scully to a man who can imprint his darkest fantasies onto undeveloped film and is trying to save the women from the 'Howlers'.

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  • The nature of photographs

    Last season we had an unsettling episode involving a criminal who photographed his victims and again here we get some very unsettling stuff involving a camera, should keep a note of that for future episodes. The photographs are a highlight here, they really are horrid and the mystery of how they're developed kept me going. What got me down was how Scully yet again was caught off guard, from her distance she didn't see a man laying right under her vehicle? That aside I was invested with their pursuit this go around.moreless
  • Unruhe

    I don't get all the reviews that seem to imply "ho hum, Scully got kidnapped AGAIN?" Honestly if anything Mulder is this series's damsel in distress, I seem to remember her needing to save his ass much more often than the other way around.

    Anyway, this isn't a particularly great episode, but it's not a bad one either. It's suspenseful and creepy for sure, the highlight definitely being watching Scully keep the killer at bay with little more than her intellect and reasoning skills. The "get inside the mind of a killer" bit is always interesting, and it was neat seeing where they went with it this episode. Scully's final monologue mirrors the episode "Grotesque", and it's like her version of what happened to Mulder.moreless
  • Unruhe

    Unruhe was a perfect and very entertaining episode of The X-Files. I really enjoyed watching because there was a lot of character development and the story was well written and had some creepy moments. I suppose by now it's a thing that Scully gets kidnapped and held captive as Mulder is off chasing clues. Every thing played out well though I was definitely on the edge of my seat during certain parts. I certainly look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • This was the kind of X- File I like to see: a horror/detective story in which the horror is the sauce, not the main course


    Icepicks again? I've felt squeamish during episodes of "The X-Files", but I never actually found myself reaching for the remote in the first act before. This one nearly did it for me. The idea of an icepick coming within, oh, a couple of light-years of my eye is too much.

    "Unruhe" opens with a deceptively simple teaser, with a nervous couple pulling up to a drugstore for a quick passport photo. Within minutes, one of them is dead from an icepick through the ear and the other has been abducted, leaving behind a Polaroid with a nightmare image of a screaming woman on it. This was one of the best "boo" teasers I've seen in a while from "The X-Files": a banal, almost boring teaser that ends in a one-two punch that left me saying "Wow!"

    The victim from the teaser is quickly found--alive, but having suffered an amateur lobotomy. In short order, another victim is abducted after a similar icepick murder, and this time Scully links the two murder sites to a construction company performing work nearby. Theorizing that the women were stalked by a construction worker, she ventures (alone) to meet the foreman, and in a chilling phone conversation with Mulder conducted in the foreman's presence, she learns that the man she is alone in the house with is their suspect. I was yelling at her to call for backup at this point, especially given The X-Files' tendency to get Scully into kidnapping situations. Gilligan cleverly gets her out of that potentially dangerous setup, only to get Scully abducted later on.

    I especially liked the phone call between Mulder and Scully, where even as he is telling her to be on the lookout for an especially long legged suspect we see Gerry Schnauz's stilts in the background. What a spine-tingling moment that is, as the truth dawns on us and Scully at the same time. Mulder's desperate concentration on the thought-photo as he tried to puzzle out her whereabouts, Bowman's fabulous overhead-crane shot on Scully as she fell, and the wonderfully unsettling photographs put the artistic aspects of this episode in the top rank of the series. And I must mention the beautiful closeups in this episode.

    Pruitt Taylor Vince's portrayal of Gerry, the schizophrenic with the googly eyes, was properly creepy. His change from the hapless innocent to the off-center and strange individual who tried to "save" women from the Howlers in his own head was convincing and frightening. Watching Scully attempt to reason with the unreasonable was nerve-wracking.

    I did not like however that Scully got abducted again, making this what, the seventh or eighth time for this event. I did like Mulder's dry wit, however. In reference to the aged druggist: "Which one of us gets to use the stun gun on Bruno Hauptmann over there?"

    I had some trouble with Scully's restraints: if I was duct-taped to a chair through my suit jacket I'd make sure to wiggle out of the jacket and damn the tailored seams. However, Gilligan managed to make so absurd a premise as thought photography work for me. He did this by making it a side issue, a fillip added to what was otherwise a creepy and engaging detective story. .

  • Mulder and Scully look for a man who imprints his own thoughts and nightmares onto photographs (I think...)

    For an episode that I somewhat struggled to understand, I really liked it a lot. The supernatural element felt a little forced, but this was an all around good episode that found all of the show's elements clicking when they needed to click and once again showed how good Vince Gilligan can be at writing.

    The basic premise is that a number of women are being kidnapped and lobotomized by a guy who kills whatever men are near the women at the time. We learn who the killer is relatively early in the episode, so the most interesting part of the episode is how they make him get away and how they explain what's going on. As I mentioned before, I'm still a little confused at how exactly everything worked out, but the way we get from Point A to Point B is superb and finds Scully once again getting into danger only to find Mulder rushing to her rescue. If anything, Mulder's need to save Scully was more frantic than normal. It made me feel like Scully could be in some true danger.

    Also, the idea of somebody's thoughts and images being imprinted on the photographs wasn't necessarily explained well but was still extremely eerie. Those "howlers" that the guy was talking about made for some frightening images.

    Overall, all of these things made for a great episode.moreless
Pruitt Taylor Vince

Pruitt Taylor Vince

Gerry Schnauz

Guest Star

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh


Guest Star

Sharon Alexander

Sharon Alexander

Mary Louise LeFante

Guest Star

William MacDonald

William MacDonald

Officer Trott

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • Principal Settings:
      Traverse City, Michigan; Washington, D.C.

    • After the opening theme, when Scully is explaining to Mulder and he starts nodding, he head is slightly turned to the left. When the camera angle changes to behind Scully, he looks at her with his head slightly turned right. When the angle changes back, his head is turned left again.

    • Despite having taken German at College apparently, Scully's first spoken 'Unruhe' (as she turns to face the killer whilst on the phone to Mulder) comes out completely wrongly, sounding more like 'unrooeeey' - though later in the episode when she is speaking in German and tied up, she pronounces it correctly.

    • Scully was bound with tape to the chair, but in the last scene she gets out of the chair after Mulder frees her hands, but without freeing her legs.

  • QUOTES (6)

    • (Mulder looks into Gerry trailer, and sees Scully's keys in the ignition)
      Mulder: (Screaming) SCULLY!
      (He breaks down the door, and sees Scully tied to a chair. He shoots Gerry)
      Mulder: (To Scully) Are you okay?
      (Scully nods, walks toward the door, looks back at Mulder, and walks out)

    • Scully: It's over, Mulder?
      Mulder: Then that photo wouldn't be his fantasy, it would be his nightmare.
      Scully: What the hell does it matter?
      Mulder: Because I want to know.
      Scully: I don't.

    • Scully: Oh my god.
      Mulder: What is it?
      Scully: She's been given what's called a trans-orbital lobotomy. It used to be called an ice pick lobotomy. It involves inserting a leukotome through the eye sockets.
      Mulder: So we're looking for a doctor? Someone with training?
      Doctor: Not judging by this?
      Scully: Whoever did this, Mulder, did it wrong.

    • Dana Scully: Tell us where she is, Gerry.
      Gerry Schnaz: I'm sorry. This is a case of mistaken identity or something. I honestly ... honestly have no idea what you're talking about.
      Scully shows him the leucotome.
      Dana Scully: Explain this, then.
      Gerry Schnaz: We're running sheetrock today. I use that to start the holes in the sheetrock, to keyhole in all the fixtures.
      Dana Scully: No, you used this to kill the two men.
      Gerry Schnauz: What two men?
      Dana Scully: You used this on Mary LeFante.
      Gerry Schnauz: Who? What? Wait, a minute ago it was Alice Brandt. I don't believe this, I do not believe this is happening.

    • Mulder: Yeah, but why would she stab her boyfriend through the ear? The magic was gone?

    • Scully: Mulder, take a look at this. You see this smeariness here? I'm thinking that it's heat damage. With the uh heater sitting under the film right there that the emulsion probably melted.
      Mulder: So you think that might make it look like she posed, screaming, for a passport photo?
      Scully: Plus the film is two years out of date... that...
      Mulder: Oh...
      Scully: ... That the photographic chemistry could have changed...
      Mulder: Yeah...
      Scully: ... The dyes fade... they... all right, so what's your theory?
      Mulder: I'm not sure I have a theory.

  • NOTES (6)

    • Translation of the German spoken to the second victim (12:15): "Have no fear. I'm going to help you. You will forget all your troubles... forget your troubles." and (16:05): "This is for you. It (the gown) is like the one she (his sister?) wore.

      Taping her mouth: Soon, very soon !

      Finally with Scully: "Everything is ok. ("It's over Jerry. Let me go right now.") I'm going to help you. You will forget all of your troubles. ..." (then they switch to English.)

    • Don't know if this is intentional, but the story idea of a polaroid camera taking pictures of something other than the intended subject was the basis for the novella "The Sun Dog" by Stephen King, included in the "Four Past Midnight" collection.

    • This episode marks the first episode in The X-Files new time slot. Up to this point The X-Files had always aired on Friday night. From now on until the end of the series the show would air on Sunday night.

    • The brand of film, ETAP, is the last name of assistant prop master Jim Pate spelled backwards.

    • Although the word Unruhe is indeed German for "unrest", Writer Vince Gilligan's inspiration came from an article on mass murderer Howard Unruh and found it eerily poetic that the killers last name also meant unrest.

    • We get an early indication of Scully's cancer here, when Schnauz says he can see Scully's unrest, and points to the bridge of her nose.