American Studies
Film Studies
Television Studies
Media Studies
Game Studies

Monstrous Media: Horror Cinema & the Media

Bram Stoker's Dracula was the first truly modern horror tale. Alongside Frankenstein, the novel—and its titular monster—has influenced the horror genre to this day, as is clear from the innumerable adaptations, remakes, and "re-imaginings" of the story. However, in the context of this study, it is important to highlight Dracula's near-obsession with media (technologies): Stoker's book is composed of the journal entries, letters, newspaper clippings, and professional records the vampire hunters have collected; the hunters employ telegraphs in order to communicate; and Dr. Seward's oral notes are recorded by a stenograph.

Several scholars have commented on this phenomenon. For example, in an essay in English Literary History, Jennifer Wicke notes, "Nineteenth-century diaristic and epistolary effusion is invaded by cutting edge technology, in a transformation of the generic materials of the text into a motley fusion of speech and writing, recording and transcribing, image and typography" (1992: 570). Similarly, in his book chapter in Post/Modern Dracula, David Punter concludes that this obsession with technology represents the rationality of modernity, which provides a stark contrast to the unknowable future (2007: 35), while Richard Menke has more recently suggested that technology helps defeat the Count and the irrational times he embodies (2008: 10). While this may be true of the specific case of Dracula, in his book Haunted Media (2000), Jeffrey Sconce convincingly demonstrates that media have regularly been depicted as possessing some type of magic, an irrational element, or an uncanny presence.

This project will show that this uncanny presence frequently transforms media and media technologies into monsters by tracing the use of media in horror cinema across a wide range of examples, including the use of book pages in Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr (1932), Night of the Living Dead's (1968) employment of television to spread the news of a zombie threat, the extremely meta-cinematic horror movies of the 1980s and beyond, and Cloverfield's (2007) working through the virtual trauma of 9/11 by effectively resurrecting a post-WWII monster seen through the viewfinder of a handheld camera. Using these examples, the book will suggest answers to the question of why media (technologies) so often become monstrous.