Director: Yann Demange
Starring: Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, Aunjanue Ellis, Courtney B. Vance
HBO has become the tv network for premiere television of late (although ignore that last season of Game of Thrones please – Yikes!) and it has produced once again with new horror drama Lovecraft Country.
Based off Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel of the same name, Lovecraft Country takes us into segregated 1950s America and the troubled life of young war veteran Atticus Freeman whose search for his missing father lays bare the deeply unsettling racism of bright smiling Americana.
And with an executive cast of showrunner Misha Green, the backing of JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions AND elite horror director Jordan Peele and Monkeypaw Productions, viewers can be assured that they are in for a treat with this highly anticipated series.
What Is Lovecraft Country?
Young black man Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) has recently returned home to Chicago following his military service in the Korean War.
It is made clear in his return that he has a shared love of reading with his uncle/father figure George Freeman (Courtney B. Vance), particularly of the cosmic horrors of legendary writer and known racist H.P Lovecraft.
This is important only insofar that it becomes the launchpad for Atticus to become attached to a mystery whereby he discovers a letter in one of Lovecraft’s books from his estranged father inviting him to search for his family legacy in Ardham, Massachusetts – a fictitious location based on many of Lovecraft’s own settings and, importantly, as George hauntingly describes it is deep at the white supremacist heart of Lovecraft country.
Undeterred by the dangers of wading into the heartlands of American segregation, Atticus, his uncle, and friend Letitia Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) begin their adventure.
The Horror and Mystery
Now, being based on the oeuvre of Lovecraft, viewers might expect great monsters and characters beset by mystery and cosmic madness and they will not be most definitely not be disappointed if the first episode is any indication.
However, in the excursion across America you will also quickly find that far scarier than any tentacled-hundred-eyed monster is the populace of the small-town “Sundown” counties that Atticus and co encounter.
Early on the trio stop off to get food in a town where they are most definitely being eyed up with suspicion and hatred by its all-white township.
Uncomfortable tension soon turns into horrifying Get Out-esque action as they are chased and shot out of town by white supremacists and are only saved by the divine intervention (quite literally) of a mysterious blonde woman.
Earlier conversations suggested that the characters were heading toward the town of Salem, and so we might perhaps surmise that this woman may be in fact be a witch.
Nevertheless, it is our first indication that magic and monsters are very much present, and things are only going to get weirder from here…
The Monster Enemy of my Racist Enemy is my…Friend?
We’ve had our first taster of the racist America hunting our protagonists and unfortunately, it only gets worse from there.
The show has so stunningly set up the horror and danger of this segregated America that when we see a Sheriff’s car pulling up slowly into frame we immediately fear the worst (an insightful commentary on the current state of America too, perhaps…).
And our worst fears are quickly realised when the Sheriff and his crew turn out to be white supremacists entrenched in some sick game of terrorising and no doubt lynching black folk passing through.
The monstrosity of these characters is so vivid and so well set up that when we hear the blood-curdling cry of REAL Lovecraftian monsters you will actually jump for joy and relief.
The monsters are here to save the day! Sort of.
Unfortunately, these monsters don’t dispute by race and so our characters quickly become separated in a nightmare fuelled chase through the woods for survival.
And even in this bid for survival against vampiric flesh demons the Sheriff and his men still somehow come out on top in the who’s who of evil monsters as they continue to threaten and throw racist hatred at Atticus even as he helps them.
Don’t worry though, if you’re looking for satisfying comeuppances for race hating white supremacist Nazi assholes then you definitely will not be disappointed.
*Beep Beep*. Car Incoming.
As tv premieres go this is an incredibly strong start for Misha Green and her team.
The set-up and intrigue is all there, and the horror has so far been immensely satisfying.
As is no doubt unsurprising considering that Peele is a producer, the racial commentary is stark and does not pull its punches, adding an uncomfortable albeit excellent realism to the show amidst its otherwise bizarro fantasy nature.
The cast too has all had excellent chemistry on-screen with Jurnee Smollett as Letitia Lewis a particular standout for this first episode.
All in all, I think we can be excited for the rest of this series to come if the show can maintain this level of standard throughout.
What did you make of Episode 1 of Lovecraft Country? Let us know in the comments below.
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