Mention H.P. Lovecraft and most sci-fi and horror fans immediately conjure up images of a tentacled underwater godlike creature called Cthulhu, and eldritch horror. But in the new HBO series, Lovecraft Country, Lovecraft’s menacing creatures take a backseat as the show pulls the creeping tentacles of racism in the United States into the daylight.
Written by Sons Of Anarchy, Heroes and Underground writer Misha Green, and directed by the modern-day king of horror, Jordan Peele and sci-fi genius J.J. Abrams, the series puts a unique and, at times jarring, twist on horror fiction. Lovecraft Country, based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel of the same name, takes us back to the Jim Crow-era in the 1950s (Jim Crow Laws were America’s apartheid enforcing regulations). A time when segregation was front and centre of the American landscape, the Civil Rights movement was starting to take flight, and US soldiers were being shipped off to the brutal Vietnam war.
Reunions and Roadtrips
Enter 25-year-old Atticus “Tic” Black, the flawed hero of the show. Played by up-and-coming actor Jonathan Majors, Atticus returns from Korea to his hometown in search of his missing father. A self-confessed bibliophile with a love for pulp fiction, Atticus teams up with his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and friend Letitia “Leti” Dandridge (Jurnee Smollett) as they travel through segregated America, using George’s Green Book – a list of all the places and locations where it’s safe for African Americans to visit – to find their way.
Commenting on the show’s horror label, Misha says, “The show isn’t just horror but really an all-genres space. When we were in the writers’ room, we would have our syllabus for each episode. For secret societies, we thought of The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut. Or a ghost story: Poltergeist and Amityville Horror. Our adventure: Indiana Jones and The Goonies. I was like, ‘This can be all of it!’” And Lovecraft Country is definitely all of it – and then some more.
Apart from Atticus and his sidekicks’ treacherous journey through America and facing gun-wielding racists, they also come face-to-face with a secret order calling themselves the Sons Of Adam, a sinister all-blond cult living in a dodgy mansion. It isn’t long before Atticus and this magical group cross paths and all hell breaks loose – and that’s just the first episode!
Lovecraft Country is everything you could possibly ask for in a show. There’s the layered family drama, deadly creatures lurking in the shadows, romance and, beautifully woven throughout it all, eye-opening social commentary. “If your art is speaking to the moment, that’s all you can hope for. It’s exciting to know that people will be engaging in the show during this time,” Misha says. “At the end of the day, it’s just a family drama, and we want to love the characters and what they’re going through.”
Watch Lovecraft Country Mondays at 21:30 on 1Magic (DStv 103).