The last shot of Dracula is a somewhat perfect example of why one should watch as many b-horror films as one possibly can. The rest of it is nice too, but pales in comparison to the eerieness of the last shot.

The entire movie is creepy, though not in the way, for instance, the Exorcist is creepy. In Dracula the creepiness is on the level of the film itself.

To put it simply, the film is about a bunch of rich socialites who don't realize that they have walked onto the set of a horror movie, and who find the noticeably strange Count Dracula to be incredibly charming (as they did his cobweb covered manor). The film is full of slow posed shots and bad acting that seems brilliant in the context of the film. Everything in Dracula seems slightly slower than it should be. Unlike the horror films modern viewers are used to, where the normal people come in contact with the strange and dangerous, everything in Dracula is slightly out of place, everything is strange, and everything is dangerous. (this is a quite common trope in early vampire films, most notably Dreyer's Vampyr and Murneau's Nosferatu, in Dracula though, it is unclear whether this is being done on purpose).

The last shot of the film really sums up what is so beautiful about this film. Dracula has kidnapped the woman, who is now lying in a coffin in the basement of his mansion. The vampire hunter and the lover come downstairs, find the woman, find Dracula, and stake Dracula. The vampire hunter tells the lover to "get her out of here, I have to do something first," and the last shot of the film is the lover climbing the majestic stairs of the decrepit mansion's basement with the woman in his arms.

What I love about this ending is that first of all, Dracula is remarkably easy to kill. Second, the last shot looks more like he is taking her to the bedroom than that he is bringing her to safety. He seems like the vampire. Third, we never know whether she actually is okay, or whether she is a vampire or some crazy thing like that, and fourth WE NEVER SEE WHAT HAPPENS TO THE VAMPIRE HUNTER.

The vampire hunter literally gets out of the way so that the film can have a majestic looking closing shot. Not to mention a shot which semantically makes rather little sense in the context.

It is rather hard to determine what the director "meant" by this shot. I'm inclined to believe that he just thought it was a rather nice shot, and no one gave a damn whether films at Universal made any sense, but if we over-interpret the shot he could be doing something rather brilliant. He could be leaving attempting to maintain an open ending to the film, despite the fact open endings weren't allowed in Hollywood (meaning, that she could still be a vampire, and the vampire hunter could be up to something fishy), or he could be trying to derive a metaphoric ending where "high society" and vampires equal roughly the same thing.

The director is Tod Browning, so I see all of these options as entirely possible. What is definite is that this film plays with form more than most any Hollywood film would over the following 10 years.

Buy Dracula here

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