If you haven't heard of Renfield yet, you probably know his master: Count Dracula, pop culture's preeminent vampire since Bram Stoker invented him more than 125 years ago. Based on an idea by The Walking Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman, this witty film turns the myth on its head and sets the action in modern-day New Orleans. Nicolas Cage plays the fanged antagonist brilliantly: whenever he appears on screen, the scenery is as likely to be chewed up as human flesh. But as the title suggests, this magnificent bloody romp is told from the point of view of Drac's long-suffering lackey, R. M. Renfield (Nicholas Hoult). After decades of bringing vampire victims to suck their blood in exchange for giving him a small portion of Dracula's power, Holt's lackey is about to give up.

Stoker's book portrays Renfield as deranged and dangerously devoted to Dracula, but that film's screenwriter Ryan Ridley reimagines him as someone more nuanced and modern. The black-and-white opening montage, echoing the 1931 classic Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, establishes Renfield's ill-advised pact with his maniacal master to provide for his family. Then, nearly a century later, Renfield stumbles upon a support group for people with toxic bosses and begins to question whether their codependency is entirely healthy. Spoiler: it's actually not true.

The slightly convoluted plot takes some time to pair Renfield with Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina), a deeply principled traffic cop who is desperate to take down the local mobsters who killed her father. Rebecca's number one target is Teddy Lobo (Ben Schwartz), a brash playboy still in thrall to his glamorous but ruthless mobster mom (Shohreh Aghdashloo). When Dracula realizes that Renfield is moving away from him—or at least trying to do so—he turns to Lobo and their growing number of highly trained henchmen for support.

There are probably too many moving parts to this story, but director Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie) keeps the pace fast and the tone playful. A montage of a still scruffy Renfield rediscovering his self-worth and undergoing a transformation takes place on "2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)," a bouncy song from today's queen of self-empowerment, Lizzo. The film also has a fun look at the power dynamics of cheerleaders. Brandon Scott Jones is good as the slightly passive-aggressive leader of the group who encourages Renfield to find his inner fire.

But what really makes this film pop are the performances—Hoult's wry self-awareness perfectly complements Cage's literal vampirism—and the flashy action sequences. McKay has created a blood-soaked explosion in which dismembered human limbs are used as clubs to beat people up, and a humble piece of cutlery becomes something of a Chekhov's Gun: If you see a fork, it's probably going to be stuck in someone's jugular vein. Renfield is not for the faint of heart, but if you have a strong enough stomach and appreciate the ridicule, it really is a hell of a lot of fun.

Tags: Best films Action Horror