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Content loaded within last 14 days Supernatural surveillance and blood-borne disease in Bram Stoker's Dracula: Reflections on mesmerism and HIV

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Abstract

Surveillance and/or voyeuristic viewing are central to certain horror productions and are often related to control and dominance. While such modes of looking are usually less obvious in the vampire film, the vampiric gaze nonetheless exerts a more definitive and immediate effect, causing its victims to fall prey to inevitable death and an extended afterlife. Although all vampire films tend to exploit these mesmeric aspects of Victorian culture, Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), directed by Frances Ford Coppola, progresses the notion of 'supernatural surveillance'. Coppola uses numerous creative visual techniques to accentuate the attention to eyes, notably in scenes that are linked to sexual desire and promiscuity. If the original novel implicitly reflected contemporaneous fears of venereal infection, namely syphilis, then Coppola's film is preoccupied with AIDS. This essay argues that the film's attention to eyes and the gaze not only reflects the mesmerism associated with Victorian culture but also resonates with new forms of socio-cultural watchfulness emerging in the AIDS era of the twentieth century.
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Keywords: AIDS; Bram Stoker's Dracula; eyes; mesmerism; sexual activity; surveillance

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2019

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  • Northern Lights: Film and Media Studies Yearbook was first published in 2002 and places particular emphasis on film, television and new media. The yearbook, although carrying a theme each issue, welcomes a broad range of articles along with shorter review pieces.
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