The Unconsciously Desired
Dracula is very much a projection of repressed sexuality who is able to perform his physical acts upon the young people because he is the aggressor
and takes responsibility for their violation. Sexual repression is an underlying motif throughout Stoker's novel, a clear product of his own Victorian age. The seductiveness of sin in the guise of Dracula is most related to the female characters who, deep down, are shown to desire the male's physical penetration. This is certainly not the case, though, in both Nosferatu films. The heroine is the woman "pure in heart" whose virtue and sacrifice destroy the vampire figure; in both versions the monster drinks her blood in the most repulsive and least erotic scenes of this action in all the films—in both films she lies in bed across much of the horizontal plane of the frame from left to right, with the monster sitting behind her and taking his nourishment by sipping from her neck. In Herzog's film the vampire starts to take up her nightgown, but she guides his head to her throat. The shots of the count lowering his head to the exposed necks of both women in the Browning film is the first filmic statement of the theme of repressed sexuality, which is then made more explicit in Terence Fisher's film where both Lucy and Mina, under the power of the count, allow him into their bedrooms. Van Helsing tells us in this version that "victims consciously detest being dominated by vampires but are unable to relinquish the practice." Although sexuality is forced upon these women by the mesmerizing powers of the count, they must be punished for such a transgression, for the defilement of their bodies, which, on some deeper level, was obviously desired. The theme of repressed sexuality is rampant in all versions after the Nosferatu films, growing in explicitness until we have the extraordinary wanton portrayal of Lucy and then her physical destruction in the Coppola film. The first graphic stakings of the female body take place in the 1956 Fisher film, where we see the stake penetrating Lucy's body and the blood surging from her wound—the very punishment itself must remind us of the act of sexual intercourse. Though Lucy, as a prototype of a modern feminist, needs no such punishment in Badham's film, her counterparts in the novel and both Fisher's and Coppola's films are branded by the cross, a wound erased only with Dracula's death—"Unclean, unclean!" shout both women in the novel and Coppola's film version.
But let us not forget Jonathan Harker, who, in Stoker's novel, is masochistically overwhelmed by the three vampire women. Only with Coppola's recent work is repressed male desire pushed to the forefront of a Dracula film (the scene between Jonathan and these female vampires is never developed in either Browning's or Franco's film, where the three figures appear only briefly). But once we begin talking about repressed sexuality, especially in relation to sadism and masochism, we are into the subject of desire itself and find ourselves peeling off the layers and going further into the psyche. We must remember, throughout this part of my discussion, that where desire produces conflict, where there is a possibility of retribution for desire, an important defense of the ego is to make that which is desired
into a fearsome object; this concept is fundamental to an understanding of the human psyche as it develops in our earliest years as well as to our later emotional reactions to the horror film. This concept also explains the basic rationale for the Dracula figure.