As many of us horror fans enjoy films like The Re-Animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak, Dagon, and Color Out of Space, it’s hard to wrestle with the fact that the author who originated those stories held views that were so atrocious, even extreme for his own day.
H.P. Lovecraft’s virulent racism has long been an uncomfortable subject for those who enjoy his work. HBO’s new series Lovecraft Country takes these awful truths and confronts them while also simultaneously capturing the spirit of his fictional mythos.
How can a series adapt the work of a horrific racist, while also confronting this hateful views? Let’s take a closer look at the series premiere of Lovecraft Country “Sundown” to find out!
An Unpleasant Past
The series opens with our main character Atticus (Jonathan Majors) having a pretty awesome dream, as he fights in the trenches of World War I, and encounters Cthulu, the aliens from War of the Worlds, and Jackie Robinson fighting monsters with a baseball bat.
From there he wakes up in the late 40’s/early 50’s where his sitting the back of the bus reminds us of the unavoidable unpleasantness of the era.
He returns to his home in Chicago upon receiving word that his brother is missing. Along with his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) and friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett), they follow a clue and embark on a journey to find his brother.
The road trip itself proves to be a great challenge as they face hostilities from diners and sundown towns, simply for being there. It’s incredibly tragic, knowing that this took place only a few decades ago.
Then in the final 15 minutes, Lovecraft Country reminds us that it’s also a horror show with a great supernatural/monster twist opens up the series’ own mythos, and a myriad of possibilities!
Figures like Cthulu and Dagon have long inspired nightmares among readers, but the truly horrifying aspect of the series is the racism that Atticus, Letitia, and George face.
The episode gives us our share of monstrous, vampiric creatures that are capable of biting off people’s heads clean, however the racist sheriff is far more frightening and infuriating, precisely because he’s a type of character that exists in real life.
Seeing him not so subtly threaten people because of the color of their skin is a tragic reminder of how the systems meant to serve and protect can be used to exact injustice and terror.
Even in 2020 police brutality and corruption that disproportionately affects people of color is an ever present and relevant issue.
Lovecraft Country was shot and advertised a month before the tragic murder of George Floyd, which sparked a wave of outrage and protests, but it speaks to how sadly relevant these issues are, even today.
We may only be one episode in, but Lovecraft Country has already done a great job establishing bold and clever characters like Atticus and Letitia.
The fact that they’re horror/sci-fi fans makes them all the more relatable to horror fans. A series like this could have very easily just been a preachy social drama, but it doesn’t forget to embrace the horror or its fandom.
It will be a lot of fun to see these characters grow over the next nine episodes, especially Letitia. She has a confidence and nerve that her harsh world developed in her, complete with a brilliant performance by Jurnee Smollett (Birds of Prey).
Thus far, Lovecraft Country is only getting warmed up. There’s plenty of poignant and disturbing story left to tell, and we can’t wait to see how it plays out!
Lovecraft Country airs on HBO Sundays at 9pm ET!