Lovecraft Country is a successful clash of genres, following hot on the heels of Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us
It’s 1950’s America. The Second World War has ended, and the troops have been sent to Korea. The population is segregated by Jim Crow laws. Monsters and wizards walk amongst the rest of society.
HBO’s new series Lovecraft Country – a television adaptation of Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel of the same name – mixes white-supremacist horror (as seen in films like Get Out) with science fiction. The show, mirroring the clash of genres seen in Ruff’s adaptation, borrows elements from H.P. Lovecraft’s tales of the supernatural, and seamlessly interweaves them with a Black family’s experience on Chicago’s South Side.
Indeed, interweaving Lovecraftian lore with Black heroes is something of an ironic choice — a commentary on the author’s infamous racism and xenophobia often hinted at in his stories. Shannon Miller remarks on the show’s ability to balance Lovecraft’s racist views with “an appreciation for [his] unparalleled vision.”
The series opens with Atticus Freeman, a young Black man and veteran, setting out on a quest to find his father, who has mysteriously disappeared. He’s left but one clue to his son — a strange letter inviting him to discover his family legacy in Ardham, Mass., a town erased from the map.
Atticus is accompanied by his Uncle George, who is on his own mission to write a Green Book-style Black travel guide, and his childhood friend Letitia. At each turn on their journey, the group is confronted by murderous white supremacists and terrifying monsters.
From there unfolds a series of horrifying events that keep you on the edge of your seat. You never know what lurks around the corner — will it be a racist sheriff or parasitic demon? Anything is possible in this world.
Indeed, Lovecraft Country blends horror and race issues in an entertaining, yet deeply thought-provoking way. There seems to be a conscious attempt to make the viewer experience the constant fear and anxiety felt by African Americans navigating racism. The lack of innuendos (white characters are blatantly racist, and do not rely on double entendres) obliges the audience to think about these social issues in the more immediate context of their own modern lives.
These obvious, discomforting allegories to race struggles in America today are especially relevant in the time of Black Lives Matter. The show addresses the many, many forms of racism present in the United States, from employment discrimination to white-only neighbourhoods. Most notably, there’s a strong focus on police brutality throughout the show, with the most vicious and dangerous characters often being police officers.
After all, the series is produced by Jordan Peele – the once-comedian turned director, perhaps best known for popularizing the race-horror genre. With Lovecraft Country, just as in Get Out and Us, Peele portrays Black life in America in a way that couldn’t have been done by anyone else. He’s developed a nuanced and recognizable craft, one that continues to shine on the small screen.
What’s more, Lovecraft Country beautifully captures the complexities of love, relationships, and identity. Characters are layered figures that you learn to love and hate simultaneously. Heroes are vulnerable, and villains show humanity – that’s real life, and it’s refreshing to see such complexity in the TV space.
If you’re a horror enthusiast, enjoy science fiction, or are simply curious as to how the series manages to blend all these different elements, give Lovecraft Country a watch. It will leave you feeling unsettled, scared, and itching for adventure.