Lovecraft Country

It takes a brave producer to try and fuse two genres that are never naturally in the same room together and make it work, but Lovecraft Country does just that.

J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele’s new HBO series is based on a book of the same name by Matt Ruff. Brilliantly steered by showrunner / producer Misha Green, this is a collision of civil rights with horror, supernatural and occasionally sci-fi.

This may start out as a defiant look at 1950s oppression but it isn’t long before it veers into all kinds of horror and supernatural, in a BLM adjustment to the equilibrium.

Atticus (Jonathan Majors) grew up with a love of storytelling and fantasy. But the stars were always out of reach.

“Heroes go on adventures in other worlds.. no negro boy from south side of Chicago can get to do that..”

Now as a returned Korean War soldier, he leaves his hometown of Chicago in a search of his missing father -with whom he has a troubled relationship. Joining him on a road trip is his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett).

But as they cross statelines, the trio encounter racism and peril at the end of shotguns. Some scenes ramp up from tense to terrifying.

Yet they also encounter monsters of another kind, which is a reference to the author H.P. Lovecraft, from whom this tale is drawn. Lovecraft wrote such novels as Reanimator, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Colour Out of Space, The Dunwich Horror and, especially the ground-breaking, The Call of Cthulhu. But he was also deemed as racist.

Matt Ruff’s story acts as a kind of ‘right of reply,’ putting heroic black characters at the centre of a genre which has traditionally overlooked them and yet immersing it in the deep racism of America in the 1950s. Where is the real horror? Who are the true monsters?

Jonathan Majors, looking distractingly buff in muscle-clad shirts, is magnificently matched by the determination of a dazzling Jurnee Smollett. These two heat up the screen while the episodes twist and turn in a thrill-ride. In the three episodes viewed, there were all kinds of unexpected detours…

The production design is also money on the screen, from American diners and gas stations to haunted houses and twisted mansions.

Just as Black Panther and Watchmen land as empowering works for new audiences, Lovecraft Country cleverly addresses civil rights issues while still managing to remain hugely entertaining from start to finish. Delivering social messages wrapped up in a Hollywood spectacle is powerful stuff indeed.

Lovecraft Country airs 11am Monday on FOX Showcase/ Binge.

10 Comments:

  1. Oh my god David I know you alluded to ow truly off its rockers this show becomes, but nothing prepares me for episode 2. And only episode 2!
    I’m truly amazed at how in the space of a single episode, this show finishes off in a polar opposite to how it begins. And again… only episode 2!!

  2. I enjoyed the first episode of Lovecraft Country. The acting was good and characters and politics were well written, probably coming from the novel. I thought that the horror was more Supernatural Splatter than Lovecraft though, except of course for the over-abundance of eyes and Cthulhu’s guest appearance in the John Carter fantasy.

  3. That was one of the best pilots I’ve seen in a long while. Bonkers in the best type of way. I couldn’t believe I was watching the same show in that last 10 mins to what I was 45 mins beforehand.
    This Lovecraftian type of genre is experiencing a bit of a mini renaissance. And it’s the first type I’ve seen of it in TV form. But I’m definitely very interested in more.
    The Evil Dead film series dabbled in this type of genre… and more recently the wonderful 2012 ‘Cabin In The Woods’ film as well just to name a few. Apparently last year’s film ‘Colour Out Of Space’ is Lovecraftian in its purest form (I’ve yet to see it)… but if it’s bizarre we are talking about, that film stars the king of Bonkers-town Nicolas Cage. I’m now more keen than ever to watch it.

  4. Some of the later scenes in season 1 made me think that Quentin Tarantino was going to make a cameo appearance as a red neck County Sheriff at any moment.
    The production is typical HBO and excellent but the racial segregation theme must raise a few eyebrows with its political timing, especially in America’s Confederate South.
    J.J.Abrams tends to prefer at least five seasons for his productions and based on episode 1 this show has a lot of potential, I hope they can keep the standard up.

  5. If you’ve read Call of Cthulhu of The Dunwich Horror, it definitely isn’t people that’s the big problem…HP was featured as a major plotline on ‘Supernatural’ several years back.

  6. Was going to give this a watch anyway. Despite the 5 stars, I’m unsure that you’ve totally sold me with this review, but seeing 5 is definitely better than seeing 1. Just hoping that it doesn’t ultimately descend into outright silliness.

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