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Parisian Marianne Danielle travels to Transylvania to begin her new job as an assistant teacher at a girls's school. When the stage stops at an inn, the driver spots a servant of the Baroness Meinster, who lives secluded in a nearby castle, and flees. Although the inn's kindly landlord, Johann, and his wife try to dissuade Marianne from staying the night, she has no other option, so they allow her to rent a room. As they have feared, the regal Baroness soon arrives and insists that Marianne stay with her at the castle. The innocent Marianne disregards the sinister demeanor of the Baroness' maid, Greta, even after the woman refuses to explain the identity of the young man Marianne spies in another wing of the house. Later, Marianne questions the Baroness, who admits that the man is her son, the Baron, a madman. She adds that the struggle to keep him contained in the castle has ruined her life and causes them both to "pray for death." That night, Marianne wanders onto her balcony, where she sees the Baron about to leap from his window. She races into his wing, where she finds him unharmed, but chained to the floor. The handsome Baron tells Marianne that his mother locks him up in order to deny him his rightful inheritance, and asks her to retrieve the key to his chain from the Baroness' dressing table. Marianne finds the key, but the Baroness spots her at the last moment, forcing Marianne to crawl along the window ledges into the Baron's room. After freeing himself, the Baron commands his terrified mother to come to him. Marianne hides upstairs while Greta wails, but soon the servant urges her to come downstairs and see what she has wrought: the Baroness lays dead, two bite marks in her neck. Greta explains that the Baroness chained her son to keep him from his evil ways, but kept him alive by bringing young girls for him to feed off. As Marianne flees the castle, Greta raves that the Baron must return to her, and his coffin, before sunrise. By morning, Marianne has collapsed on the road to town, where British metaphysics specialist Dr. Van Helsing finds her. He brings her to the inn, where a wake is in progress for a village girl found murdered during the night. Upon inspecting the body, Van Helsing discovers, as he has expected, puncture marks in the girl's neck. He drives Marianne to her school, explaining along the way that he is studying "a local sickness" and must learn everything about her stay in the castle. When they reach the school, Van Helsing's credentials impress the grouchy headmaster, Herr Lang, who promises to look after Marianne for him. Van Helsing then returns to the inn, where he confers with the local priest and agrees that a vampire is at large. He explains vampires' key qualities: They cannot tolerate sunlight or religious imagery, cast no reflection, sleep in coffins, can transform into bats and hypnotize people, and can be killed only with fire or a wooden stake to the heart. That night, Van Helsing and the priest wait by the village girl's grave until they see Greta approach and coach the girl on how to rise from the dead. When the girl emerges from the ground, the men attack, but the girl turns into a bat and escapes. Van Helsing follows Greta to the castle, where he confronts the Baroness, who is now a vampire. As they talk, the Baron appears and attacks Van Helsing, who brandishes a cross to repel the creature. After a fight, the Baron runs off, after which the Baroness begs Van Helsing to kill her with a stake so her soul can rest. While Van Helsing performs the terrible act of kindness, the Baron visits Marianne, who has no memory of their earlier meeting. He is about to bite her neck when Herr Lang interrupts, at first irate that they are alone together, but soon charmed by the Baron, who announces his engagement to Marianne. That night, Marianne and her friend Gina discuss the Baron's many attributes, and after Marianne leaves Gina's bedroom, the Baron enters and drinks Gina's blood. Soon, news of Gina's death reaches Van Helsing, who accompanies incompetent local doctor Tobler to the school. There, upon learning that Marianne is engaged to the Baron, Van Helsing realizes that she is under his spell. He insists that Gina's body be stored in the stable and that the Langs watch over Marianne. That night, however, Marianne enters the stable, whereupon Gina, now a vampire, climbs out of her coffin and pursues Marianne. She is saved by Van Helsing, who convinces Marianne that her fiancé is a monster who must be stopped, after which she admits that the Baron is hiding at the old mill. Van Helsing searches there for the Baron, who eventually attacks him with a chain. The Baron manages to bite the doctor, then leaves to find Marianne. Weakened but alive, Van Helsing cauterizes the bite with a burning-hot poker, then seals the wound with holy water. Now healed, he is able to splash the rest of the holy water onto the Baron when he returns with a hypnotized Marianne. The Baron is maimed by the water but manages to set fire to the mill, forcing Van Helsing to grab Marianne and escape to the roof. There, the doctor jumps on the windmill blades, causing them to turn until their shadow forms a cross. When the Baron unintentionally steps into the shadow, the Christian icon destroys him. While the creature dies, Van Helsing holds Marianne, who has awakened from her trance.